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A report shows that the pandemic is having lasting effects on Florida families

Johnna Nieves, left, opens her van as Idalia Nunez, right, of the Second Harvest Food Bank loads the vehicle with a weeks supply of food in Orlando. While food banks have become critical during the pandemic, they’re just one path for combating hunger. For every meal from a food bank, a federal program called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, provides nine.
John Raoux
/
AP
Johnna Nieves, left, opens her van as Idalia Nunez, right, of the Second Harvest Food Bank loads the vehicle with a weeks supply of food in Orlando. While food banks have become critical during the pandemic, they’re just one path for combating hunger. For every meal from a food bank, a federal program called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, provides nine.

A recent report found that Florida families continue to struggle with many hardships caused by the pandemic, such as unstable housing, food insecurity, loss of health care coverage and mental health issues.

The report is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey which was conducted between January and February of this year and focused on employment, housing, health, food and education.

These issues are surfacing as the government aid provided during the pandemic begins to expire. The report shows that the pandemic is having lasting effects on people’s budgets, education and mental health.

The data don’t match the general impression that the country is “rebounding” from the pandemic, said Norín Dollard, senior policy analyst at the Florida Policy Institute and author of the report.

“We are. We’re just not rebounding for all Floridians,” she said.

The report found that one in five Floridians said they lost income and could have trouble paying their rent or mortgage. And it found that Black and Hispanic households reported a loss of income at a rate more than double that of white households: 28% and 27% compared to 13%, respectively.

The report also found that 14% of Floridians had problems putting food on their tables and 12% lacked health insurance.

The fact that so many people were still suffering was shocking, Dollard said.

“I’ve had a number of inquiries, and people saying “Wow, I didn’t know that families are still suffering the effects of the pandemic,” that it’s not over yet,” she said.

The survey was done just after millions of American families lost payments from the expanded Child Tax Credit. Those monthly payments — $300 for each child under 6 and $250 for older children — started in July and continued through December.

When they ended, about 3.7 million children fell into poverty, according to the Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy.

The fact that the temporary funding was able to lift so many families out of poverty should be a wake-up call for lawmakers to make the payments permanent, especially for low income Americans, Dollard said.

“Something that we’ve learned from the pandemic is that we know what to do to support families, and we need to exercise that political will to make the changes like the Child Tax Credit permanent, to continue to expand access to childcare, and beyond,” she said.

The report also made the following suggestions to improve the outlook for struggling Floridians:

  • Expand access to child care and universal pre-K
  • Expand Medicaid coverage, which could help more than 40,000 uninsured Floridians
  • Extend food benefits for needy families 
  • Make free lunch and nutrition programs for children permanent
  • And expand mental health benefits for all Floridians

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Katrine Bruner