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A new study shows the coronavirus pandemic erased gains against child poverty and family stability, among other indicators of child wellbeing in the state.
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio’s annual “kids count” profile used 16 wellbeing categories in the areas of health care, safety, homes and communities, finance and education, which leaders of CDF say show areas of weakness and opportunity in the state.
Some of the data is from before the start of the pandemic, but the study combines data from before and during the pandemic to come up with recommendations.
Child poverty, for example, had gone down to 18.1% before the pandemic hit, but with unemployment ballooning to 8.1%, the study found that the decline was all but erased.
“These measure have likely worsened due to the crippling impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for many families and communities who were on an upward trajectory prior to COVID-19,” the CDF-Ohio said in a statement announcing the findings.
Unemployment increased 97% from 2019 to 2020, which led to families losing not only their jobs but also their health insurance. Fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid in fiscal year 2020 as well, with the rate decreasing nearly 2%, according to the study.
Along with fewer Medicaid enrollments, the percentage of low-birthweight babies went down from 8.6% of all births in 2019 to 8.3% in 2020.
Infant mortality, however, stayed the same from 2018 to 2019, at 6.9 deaths per 1,000 births. This issue has been a consistent problem in the state, with 57% of all pregnancy-related deaths considered preventable and Black children more than 2.5 times more likely to die before their first birthday compared to white babies.
The amount of children receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits was 29%, down in fiscal year 2020 from 32.3% the year before. The amount of students considered economically disadvantaged was also down to 47.3% in the 2019-2020 school year, from 49.9% in 2018-19.
Teen births between ages 15 and 17 were down slightly statewide in 2020, at 6.8 per 1,000 teen girls, compared to 6.9 per 1,000 in 2019.
In 2019, the median income in the state was listed as $58,704, up from $56,155 in 2018, despite unemployment rising significantly.
The study also provided recommendations on how best to spend money allocated to the state through the federal American Rescue Plan. These recommendations include engaging the community through public forums and proposals on how to invest in the community, and prioritizing “whole child wellbeing” as an investment in economic stability, among other areas.
“How we pivot amidst this pandemic will determine the wellbeing of our communities and their ability to withstand tomorrow’s challenges,” said Tracy Najera, CDF-Ohio’s executive director.
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