Families with children in Pennsylvania and beyond were hit hard during the pandemic, and returning to pre-COVID levels of support could harm millions of kids, according to the new Kids Count Data Book from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
The report tracks children’s health, education and family stability by state, based on 2019 data. It ranked Pennsylvania 19th among states for overall child wellbeing.
The Commonwealth worsened in education, with 53% of preschool-age children not enrolled.
Kari King, CEO and president of Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, believes American Rescue Plan funding will address the education gaps exacerbated by the pandemic.
“It is very thoughtfully targeted around learning loss, mental health, things like that,” King explained. “I think it has been crafted well to address some of the concerns noted by educators, parents, other community leaders.”
The report showed Pennsylvania saw areas of improvement in 2019, including a decrease in the number of children living in poverty, although the pandemic might have affected that total.
King added one area where she’d like to see the Keystone State improve is in permanent access to the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.
“Overall, what we really need to ensure is that there is that coverage for children,” King contended. “Because we know that when children have health insurance, that they’re going to be healthier and that it really does impact their overall well-being.”
Forty-six percent of children in the state have coverage through CHIP and Medicaid. Another 5% are uninsured.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, said it is crucial for lawmakers to enact policies that address issues like food and housing insecurity, mental-health concerns, and racial inequality.
“We should be doing everything that we can to lift those children so that they’re in a better situation, and that they can have brighter futures just as all other children do,” Boissiere asserted.
The report also recommended making the recent Child Tax Credit expansion permanent.