by Matthew Leonard, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
The intense financial insecurity generated by the coronavirus pandemic has seen the parents of young children skipping meals, according to a statewide poll released Thursday by a coalition of nonprofits, Raising New York.
A survey conducted the week of April 22 of New York parents found that 1 in 3 of of the parents surveyed had their hours and income reduced because of the pandemic, and two-thirds of the group said they were concerned about lost hours and lost employment going forward.
The first cutbacks when income is reduced tend to be around food, the coalition said.
The findings also showed that reduced access to food with 1 in 10 parents saying that the financial pressure has also resulted in their children skipping or reducing meals.
“We know that even before this pandemic, families of color and families from low-income backgrounds were disproportionately affected by financial insecurity and limited access to high-quality early learning experiences. These poll results make it clear that the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated these inequities” said Hope Lesane, associate director for early childhood for The Education Trust–New York, which staffs the Raising NY coalition.
The sample also exposed two other related issues; only 17% of the group said they had access to free or additional internet access, and more than a quarter said they also had trouble accessing food resources where they were available.
The areas outside NYC and downstate were found to have the lowest percentage of parents who are working remotely (50%, compared to 64% statewide), and they were also the least likely to have had to take some form of leave to care for their child (23%, compared to 35% statewide).
The significant disruptions to daily life brought about by the pandemic have also put the well-being of families and small children at increased risk, particularly because the shutdown of child care facilities has created uncertainty for families, particularly among essential workers. The poll found that 12% said they would not return their children to child care when the pandemic subsides, and 20% are unsure of what measures they will take.
The coalition is urging local, state and federal policymakers to hone in on these specific areas of family support as the impact of the coronavirus outbreak continues to be felt among low-income communities:
“It’s as if we’ve re-entered the Great Depression”, said Larry Marx, CEO of The Children’s Agenda. “When the novel coronavirus first appeared, people commonly thought children would be unharmed. But our most vulnerable citizens, including infants and toddlers, are being scarred by it. Our government, at all levels, has to step up its response to get more resources to families in need.”
Nearly 60% of the survey was conducted with respondents who were on a mobile device.