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Pandemic, High Housing Costs Could Stall Progress for ID Kids

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Tuesday, June 22, 2021   

BOISE, Idaho -- A new report finds child wellbeing in Idaho had been improving since the Great Recession until COVID-19 hit.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation's Kids Count Data Book analyzed data from 2019 in four categories: economic well-being, education, health, and family and community. Overall, it ranks Idaho 16th.

Christine Tiddens, director of Idaho Voices for Children, said increasing housing costs and the pandemic threaten progress. She pointed out there was a 15% increase in the number of families struggling to pay rent between 2020 and 2021.

"While we're experiencing this decline in child poverty rates, what we're now seeing in Idaho is that these rapidly increasing and high housing costs have become a major burden on family economic well-being across the state," Tiddens observed.

The report found child poverty rates in Idaho declined from 19% in 2010 to 13% in 2019.

Tiddens noted the state is doing better in the health category.

"Idaho ranks 19th in the nation for affordable health care," Tiddens explained. "And actually, we increased and have done better than in years past, and this is due largely in part to our expanded Medicaid."

The rate of uninsured children decreased from 11% in 2010 to 5% in 2019. Idaho voters approved Medicaid expansion in 2018. Last week, child- and health-advocacy groups launched Idaho Kids Covered, to close the gap on the remaining 5% of children without insurance.

Tiddens added one important policy for families is the Child Tax Credit, which was included in the American Rescue Plan, and will go out starting in July.

While it's set to expire in a year, child advocacy groups want the tax credit to become permanent.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, said it's expected to raise as many as half of kids living in poverty above the poverty line.

"For families with children under the age of six, it's $300 a month that those families will be receiving," Boissiere explained. "So, at a time when families are concerned with being able to pay their mortgage, or to pay their rent or to provide food for their families, it's a significant amount."

Disclosure: Annie E. Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, and Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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