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NC families ‘left on their own’ to meet basic needs amid pandemic
Food insecurity, rising poverty hit most vulnerable
Published Sunday, December 13, 2020
by Nadia Ramlagan | North Carolina News Service

Food insecurity is an issue for 1 in 5 North Carolina families according to census household data used in a study by the Annei E. Casey Foundation.

RALEIGH – The coronavirus has surpassed heart disease as the number-one killer of Americans, and a new report finds children are especially vulnerable to the personal and economic consequences of the pandemic.

Based on census household survey data taken last spring, the Annie E. Casey Foundation study found food insecurity, already a problem for more than 1 in 10 households nationwide before the onset of COVID, has spiked, particularly among Black, Brown and Indigenous families.

Vikki Crouse, policy analyst and Kids Count project director at NC Child, said North Carolina is facing its own crisis when it comes to child well-being. 

“The data show that many children and families across the country have been left on their own without support for their basic needs during the crisis,” Crouse said. “We see that 1 in 5 families in North Carolina report that they sometimes or often don't have enough to eat.”

The data show 18% of North Carolina households with children said they had little or no confidence they’d be able to pay their rent or mortgage on time, while 21% of respondents said they felt down, hopeless or depressed. Sixteen percent of parents statewide lack health insurance coverage, and some have likely delayed getting medical care for themselves or their children.

Crouse said the $1.8 trillion in federal relief lawmakers passed earlier this year prevented more families from slipping into poverty and uncertainty.

“The CARES Act really demonstrated that our leaders can intervene to reach families and children that are struggling. We know that our country has the resources to do better by all kids and all families,” she said. “Right now, we need immediate and decisive action to help families survive this catastrophe.”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases across North Carolina are rising to alarming levels, with more than 6,000 new cases reported last week.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said even with a promising vaccine on the horizon, North Carolinians could be facing health care, financial and mental-health challenges for years to come. 

“We have to get back to the basics,” Boissiere said. “We have to make sure that the poorest and most fragile families in our economy are taken care of and that we’re funding those programs that can have an impact and make sure that everybody’s basic needs are met in this country.”

Boissiere pointed to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which allows states to provide short-term cash assistance to low-income families with children, as a stopgap solution. According to the report, the program is long overdue for improvement.

In 2019, only 23% of families with kids in poverty received TANF assistance, down from nearly 70% at the program's inception in 1996.


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