How Virginia’s Children are Faring One Year into the Pandemic1 Comment
To the Voices’ family,
March 11, 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the day in which the world changed for everyone. In very short order, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic, professional sports teams ended their seasons, schools closed, and “work” presented a host of new challenges for us all. What some believed might be an inconvenience for a few weeks proved to be the challenge of a lifetime.
We wondered how to best stay safe and what to do about childcare. Would our jobs and businesses survive, and how were we going to pay for food and housing? As the weeks turned into months, our concerns only grew. Were our children falling behind in school; were those of us who survived COVID-19 going to have lifelong illness? How was anyone, especially children and older adults, going to deal with long-term isolation?
The more we learned about infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths, the more something else became clear. This pandemic – which was taking a huge human and economic toll – was doing so disproportionately in communities of color. The last 12 months with COVID-19 has pushed us in many ways, broken us in some, and highlighted the appalling lack of equity in our society.
For Virginia’s children, their race, zip code and family income determine their life expectancy and ability to succeed. Lest we are tempted to think that this is hyperbole, the data from our KIDS COUNT Data Center confirms the impact of COVID-19 on families of color.
- The economic security for families has weakened; especially for Black and Latino families. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly half (49%) of all adults with children in the household lost employment income. While unemployment has soared across all race and ethnic groups, this percentage has been significantly greater for Black and Hispanic families.
- More families are going hungry. Prior to the pandemic, one in 10 families reported sometimes or often not having enough food to eat. These numbers have increased during the pandemic to 14% and are significantly higher for Black (24%) and Hispanic (32%) families.
- Without policy interventions we will see a spike in housing insecurity. Virginia’s eviction moratorium has allowed for our families to keep pace with the national average (21%) when it comes to paying rent or mortgage on time. However, 25% of Black families expressed no confidence in making these payments on time.
- Black and Latino people are hospitalized at a greater rate for COVID-19. As of March 17, the Virginia Department of Health reported 19,982 hospitalizations from COVID-19. The Black community accounts for about 27% of that group, although they only represent just 20% of the commonwealth’s population. Likewise, the Latino population makes up roughly 17% of Virginia’s COVID-19 hospitalizations, but only 10% of the population.
- As of March 16, of Virginians that have received at least one dose of the vaccine, 8,843 per 100,000 are Black people and 7,835 per 100,000 are Hispanic people, compared to 14,405 per 100,000 that are White people.
The stress of trying to pay bills, eat, maintain housing and balance child care has also led to an increase in depression and anxiety in adults. These familial stressors are also felt by children and can impact their development, introducing new levels of trauma and instability.
This year has been hard in so many ways. We must acknowledge the generosity, kindness of bravery that were on display daily in ways big and small. Individuals, families, and communities proved to be creative, adaptable, and resilient. I certainly saw all of these qualities in the staff and work at Voices and it was to the benefit of Virginia’s children and their families.
Because of your support, Voices was able to continue our work in championing policies and safety net programs to protect our children. More than $257 million was allocated in state and federal funds for new initiatives for children and families. Our legislative victories include:
- A significantly transformed foster care;
- Enhanced Virginia Preschool Initiatives
- An emphasis placed on equitable education for disadvantaged school districts;
- Support to address financial hardships for families;
- Virginia becoming the first state in the South to declare racism a public health crisis;
- Established new methods to stabilize childcare and make it affordable; and
- Dismantling systems of oppression, increasing access to health insurance and removing barriers to receive public assistance.
Yes, this past year was hard, and we are not out of the woods yet. But we do have reason to hope, and we at Voices will continue to advocate for programs, policies and systemic changes that promote health, wellbeing, and equity for all of Virginia’s children and their families.
Amy Strite, CEO of Voices for Virginia’s Children
*This blog was updated on April 28th, 2021.*