An annual report on child well-being underscores the need in Florida for specific action to repair the damage caused by the pandemic.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book found 18% of Florida children living in poverty in 2019, which shows improvement over the last ten years.
Norin Dollard, director of Florida Kids Count, noted those gains could take a hit in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as 15% of adults with children said their households sometimes or always do not have enough to eat.
"We were going into it in a reasonable way, but definitely, families are struggling," Dollard explained. "And Black and brown families are struggling disproportionately more than their white counterparts."
A closer look revealed 37% of Black households reporting not enough to eat, compared to 10% for whites and 9% for Latinos. Overall, the Kids Count Data Book ranked Florida 35th for child wellbeing.
The report cited one area of improvement, as more children living with parents who are employed, but the data was gathered before the pandemic.
The report recommended hard-hit communities of color be prioritized in the COVID-19 recovery, and income supports that help families be expanded.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, noted under the American Rescue Plan, the Child Tax Credit was increased and restructured to put money in the hands of lower-income families as early as next month.
"For families with children under the age of six, it's $300 a month that those families will be receiving," Boissiere observed. "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."
According to the report, more than one in eight adults with children, or 13%, said they didn't have health insurance in March. Dollard emphasized parents without health coverage tend to have kids who are also uninsured.
She commended a new Florida law, which expanded some Medicaid coverage to new mothers in the state.
"Although we made strides this session for getting Medicaid extended for postpartum moms up to a year, expanding Medicaid would go a long way to helping families," Dollard contended.
Since the pandemic, the Children's Home Society predicts one in four kids in Florida will be living in poverty, an addition of 210,000 children.
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