Families rely on child care centers to ensure their youngest members receive quality early education and a healthy start in life while parents work. This vital industry has been devastated, though, by Covid-19. A a survey series by the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children found that two-thirds of centers are currently closed. The Ready Louisiana coalition – comprised of business leaders and community advocates – laid out a plan this week to invest $71 million in mostly federal dollars to help centers reopen safely and at rates that families can afford. Will Sentell of Nola.com | The Advocate has the story:
“Without increased investments in early child care and education, parents and caregivers working in every industry will not be able to return to work and keep the economy moving,” said Libbie Sonnier, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute, a child advocacy group.
Workers struggle as they lose health insurance
As unemployment insurance claims have skyrocketed in recent weeks, people who rely on employer sponsored health insurance are facing a double whammy – loss of income and health care coverage, too. As many as 16.2 million workers have likely lost their employer-based health insurance since the onset of the pandemic, including 287,601 Louisianans. Fortunately, Louisiana expanded Medicaid in 2016, providing critical coverage for Louisianans below 138% of poverty – or $36,156 for a family of four – a potential lifeline for the newly unemployed. Ben Zipperer and Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute explain:
Because the United States is unique among rich countries in tying health insurance benefits to employment, many of the newly unemployed will suddenly face prohibitively costly insurance options. (…) The linkage between specific jobs and the availability of health insurance is a prime source of inefficiency and inequity in the U.S. health system. It is especially terrifying for workers to lose their health insurance as a result of, and during, an ongoing pandemic.
Going hungry in Louisiana
In Louisiana, more than 1 in 3 residents are food insecure, according to a recent survey that included 10 states and eight metro areas. Among areas surveyed, Louisiana is the worst for families experiencing food insecurity. Unfortunately, the survey repeats patterns of racial disparities seen elsewhere in the pandemic and raises alarms that additional aid will be needed to help hungry families. Families with children have the hardest time affording food, and black and brown families with children are particularly hard-hit by hunger during the pandemic. Diane Schanzenbach and Abigail Pitts of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research breakdown the survey results in a new report:
The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted our lives in a manner unprecedented in modern times, but for none more so than low-income working families with children. Unemployment has spiked sharply, and families have experienced income losses, increasing their economic hardship. Compounding this loss of income, widespread physical school closings have meant that millions of children have lost access to subsidized school meals that play a key role in helping families with children meet their basic food needs. New evidence is emerging from surveys since the COVID-19 pandemic began that have documented dramatic increases in food insecurity as well as very low food security—a more severe condition in which there have been substantial disruptions or reductions in food intake—among adults, children, and other vulnerable populations.
“Quaranteen” mental health
The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted family routines and long-anticipated celebrations such as high school graduations. But for teens living in unstable and insecure home environments, the impact of Covid-19 goes much deeper and may last much longer than these missed milestones. The Coronavirus Chronicles, a project of Urban Health Media Project, shares the stories of “quarenteens” in under-resourced communities struggling with the social, emotional and economic impacts of the pandemic. Princyana “Princy” Hudson tells her story:
Because of social distancing I haven’t gotten any hours at the pizza place where I was working, so I don’t have money to pay for personal items and food. Volunteer services like churches and charities have either closed down for now or reduced services to prevent the spread of the virus. This hits especially hard for people like me who get a lot of their food from these types of resources to supplement the meager amount that food stamps can buy.
Petula Dvorak of The Washington Post provides insight from Coronavirus Chronicles founder, Jayne O’Donnell, on how the project has evolved:
“When we started three years ago, we were going to focus on ‘social determinants of health’ — access to healthy food, transportation, medical care and housing,” (USA Today health reporter Jayne) O’Donnell said. “But when given a choice on what to do projects on, most of the students gravitate to trauma and mental health.” Because it’s often what they know and what they live.
The Urban League of Louisiana’s virtual town hall series, From Disparity to Parity, investigates the impact on Covid-19 on black Louisianans, including a discussion of long term mental health concerns.
Number of the Day
31,380 – the number of domestic workers in Louisiana. People doing domestic work are more likely to be women, to live below or near the poverty line and are less likely to have benefits like retirement and sick days. (Source: Economic Policy Institute)