Pandemic disproportionately affects Virginia families of color, report finds

The coronavirus pandemic has caused tremendous hardships for families, but a new report shows that in Virginia, families of color have been hit harder by the virus in a number of ways.

The report, “Kids, Families and COVID-19,” was released Saturday by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in partnership with Voices for Virginia’s Children.

It found that while 13% of those surveyed said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat — an increase of 3% since the start of the pandemic — for Black families, the rate was nearly double, at 25%.

In addition, the report found that 16% of Virginia’s families had slight or no confidence that they would make their next rent or mortgage payment on time. But for the commonwealth’s Black families, the rate was 36%.

According to the U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey, 60% of Black families and 58% of Latino families with children have lost employment income since the start of the pandemic, compared to 46% of all Virginia families.

The picture was bleak for Virginia’s families in other areas as well.

According to “Kids, Families and COVID-19,” 11% of the state’s families did not have health insurance and 19% said they felt down, depressed or hopeless.

“The United States is enduring the most catastrophic economic crisis since the Great Depression. This time, however, the nation is also in the midst of a public health disaster that has not spared a single community,” the report said.

“Schools have been disrupted so profoundly that the effects could damage the prospects of an entire generation of young people. And widening racial disparities require policymakers to prioritize equitable solutions. To help get families through this crisis, we need decisive action,” it added.

To that end, the report recommends putting racial and ethnic equality first in policymaking. This includes engaging community stakeholders and ensuring policies are informed by those most affected by the pandemic.

Other recommendations include:

  • Prioritizing the physical and mental health of all children. This includes making a coronavirus vaccine available, regardless of cost, and strengthening the Affordable Care Act.
  • Helping families with children achieve financial stability and bolstering their well-being. Changes here include expanding access to child care and unemployment insurance for part-time workers, gig economy workers and low-wage workers.
  • Ensuring schools are more equitably funded and ready to meet the needs of students disparately affected by the pandemic. This includes protecting school funding and addressing disparities in technology access.

The report’s findings were primarily based on surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Anna Gawel

Anna Gawel joined WTOP in 2020 and works in both the radio and digital departments. Anna Gawel has spent much of her career as the managing editor of The Washington Diplomat, which has been the flagship publication of D.C.’s diplomatic community for over 25 years.

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