For Immediate Release
December 14, 2020
New Annie E. Casey Foundation Report Finds Families in Michigan and Across 50 States Struggling with Hunger, Housing, Health Insurance and Mental Health
LANSING, Mich.—An average of 62% of Michigan households with children have lost employment income since March 13, 2020, according to Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and a Roadmap for Recovery, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how families are faring during the COVID-19 crisis. That percentage has declined in most recent weeks, but is still hovering at 51%. All Michigan-specific data can be found here.
This KIDS COUNT® report examined data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that demonstrate how families across the country are challenged to meet basic needs during this global public health crisis while managing school, work and mental health. The Foundation finds that the concurrent health and economic crises are exacerbating trends that show vulnerable families are unable to fulfill basic needs. By measuring food security, the ability to make rent or mortgage payments, health insurance status and mental health concerns, the Casey Foundation identified these as pain points for children and families that require immediate action.
“We have known since the coronavirus pandemic hit Michigan that it was going to hit families with children particularly hard, but this report gives us concrete data to show how parents are faring and where help is most needed,” said Kelsey Perdue, Michigan Kids Count project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We have an opportunity to do more at both the state and federal level to help parents get by during these difficult times, including being able to put enough food on their table, keep a roof over their heads and keep them physically and mentally well.”
The state’s unemployment issues for working families has in turn had a significant impact on the other needs of parents and their kids. Around 15% of Michigan households with kids have reported “sometimes or often” not having enough food to eat in the previous seven days. The same percentage of Michigan parents say they have slight or no confidence in paying their next rent or mortgage payment on time.
Not surprisingly, mental health challenges like anxiety and depression are on the rise. As of October 12th, 34% of Michigan households with children have said that they have felt nervous, anxious or on edge for more than half of the days or nearly every day for the past seven days, and 22% said they felt down, depressed or hopeless for half or more of the previous week. These mental health concerns have been even higher for Black residents, who also have been at greater risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 and experience other racialized outcomes.
In the annual state and national Kids Count Data Books, healthcare access has usually been a bright spot for Michigan kids and their families. But with many parents relying on employee-provided health care, health insurance access has also been strained by COVID-19. As of Oct. 12th, 7% of Michiganders raising children surveyed reported being uninsured. Due to COVID-related insurance access, medical costs and exposure concerns, nearly one-third of Michigan families reported delaying medical care. And a quarter of Michigan households raising kids said that they simply did not get needed medical care because of the COVID-19 crisis.
“If lawmakers have been waiting for a clear signal and opportunity to pass policy that helps vulnerable kids and families, this is it,” Perdue said. “Michigan kids and their parents urgently need help, and our leaders need to respond with that same sense of urgency. There are plenty of concrete pieces of legislation to address unemployment and other relief that are just waiting for a vote.”
The report shows how urgent state and federal intervention is to the health and well-being of families with children. The Michigan League for Public Policy and its Kids Count project have outlined several priorities for COVID relief in the Michigan Legislature’s 2020 Lame Duck session, including a six-week extension of emergency unemployment benefits, a moratorium on water shutoffs and a $100-million COVID relief fund proposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. However, as legal, fiscal and political tensions between the governor and the Republican-led Legislature continue, additional federal aid and funding is key to helping Michigan families weather this storm.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation urges policymakers and child advocates to unite across differences and put COVID-19 response at the top of 2021 agendas to ensure that children have what they need to survive and thrive. The Foundation calls on elected officials and other decision makers to:
- Put racial and ethnic equity first in policymaking by using disaggregated data and engaging community stakeholders. This should ensure that the policymaking process is informed by the diverse perspectives of those hardest hit by the crisis and created in partnership with communities. This approach should underpin any concrete policy actions.
- Prioritize the physical and mental health of all children by guaranteeing that any vaccine will be available without cost as a factor and by retaining and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. To promote mental health, particularly in times of crisis, policymakers should work to reduce the student-to-school-counselor ratio in all school settings to levels recommended by mental health professionals.
- Help families with children achieve financial stability and bolster their well-being by expanding access to unemployment insurance for part-time and gig economy workers, low-wage workers and students and by expanding child care access. Additionally, policymakers should eliminate barriers to accessing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). And beyond any temporary housing assistance programs aimed at heading off a foreclosure or eviction crisis, federal policymakers should expand the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program, and increase the overall availability of public housing.
- Ensure schools are better funded, more equitably funded and ready to meet the needs of students disparately affected by the pandemic by boosting school funding to protect against the economic impact of the pandemic, build maintenance-of-equity requirements into relief packages and address disparities in technology access at home and in the classroom.
The 2020 KIDS COUNT report and additional information is available at www.aecf.org. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Kids Count report can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.
The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.mlpp.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.
The Kids Count in Michigan project, https://mlpp.org/kids-count/, is part of a broad national effort to improve conditions for children and their families. Funding for the project is provided by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Steelcase Foundation, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, Ruth Mott Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, DTE Energy Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund and the Battle Creek Community Foundation. More state and local data are available at the Kids Count Data Center, www.datacenter.kidscount.org
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.