Pages tagged "Nutrition"
How to protect children experiencing hunger & homelessness in the wake of COVID-19
Every facet of the lives of children and families are being disrupted during this historic public health and economic crisis. Unfortunately, both their short-term and long-term consequences and challenges are not being fully considered or discussed. This crisis is severe and will last for months or even years to come. Moreover, the resulting physical and mental health consequences, impact on education and child development, and economic implications of this calamity will last well beyond the coronavirus itself.
That is why First Focus Campaign for Children called on Congress to safeguard the physical, emotional, financial, and developmental health and well-being of our nation’s 74 million children with a specific package of legislative proposals across a range of issues — including children experiencing hunger and homelessness.
Child food insecurity remained high in the United States before COVID-19, with 1 in 7 children (11.2 million) living in a household that struggled to put food on the table. Now with school closures leading to limited access to school meals and low-income household budgets being stretched even thinner, more children are experiencing, or are at-risk of experiencing, hunger and food insecurity. We urge Congress to build on the nutrition assistance provided in previous aid packages to ensure that families with children can put food on the table. To achieve these goals, we urge you to:
- Increase SNAP: Increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 15 percent, with an additional 20 percent bump for families with children, and increase the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $30 a month. The poorest families already receive the maximum amount so it is essential to increase benefit levels for those families with little or no income. In addition, waive SNAP work requirements for college students.
- Extend Pandemic EBT Transfers: Extend the Pandemic-Emergency Benefit Transfers through the summer and permit additional distribution sites.
- Increase WIC Funding and Access: Increase the amount of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program’s Cash Value Benefit as well as increase access to the program through raising the eligibility age for children up to age 6, increase postpartum eligibility for up to two years, and extend infant and child certification for two years.
Child and youth homelessness continues to skyrocket in the United States, with 1.5 million students identified as homeless by the U.S. Department of Education in the 2017-2018 school year, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. The coronavirus outbreak only serves to exacerbate this problem, both by putting additional children and youth at risk of homelessness, and by increasing threats to the safety and well-being of children and youth currently experiencing homelessness in doubled-up situations, motels, shelters, and on the street. We call on Congress to:
- Increase support to children and families experiencing homelessness in all forms: Establish a Family Stabilization Fund within the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to provide emergency relief for homeless families. These funds would be administered to agencies and programs eligible for grants under ACF and in partnership with local educational agencies, public housing agencies and other entities to provide funding to meet the needs of families with children experiencing homelessness. This funding could be used for shelter and housing-related needs, as well as health and safety needs including hygiene needs and mental health services. These funds would be available through September 2021.
- Target aid to students experiencing homelessness: Fund the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program at $500 million to provide enhanced targeted funding to identify students experiencing homelessness and support their educational needs. Congress should allow these funds to be used broadly to provide immediate relief to students and their families as they are identified as homeless by school systems, including to address the unique needs of young children, unaccompanied youth, children and youth with disabilities, and English Language Learners.
- Institute a moratorium on all evictions and utility shut offs nationwide: Institute a moratorium on all evictions nationwide, including from hotels and motels as well as all utility shut offs. This moratorium should freeze all existing eviction orders and eliminate late fees for back rent owed.
- Provide emergency rent relief to prevent homelessness: Create an emergency assistance fund as included in the bipartisan Eviction Crisis Act (S. 3030), to help families with rent relief and other housing-related costs. Families should not worry about building up large rent arrears due to trying to cover other bills.
- Establish a right to civil counsel and increase funding for civil legal services: Establish a right to civil counsel for all families facing eviction or other housing disputes and provide an increase in funding of at least $75 million for the Legal Services Corporation to meet the increased civil legal service needs of families with housing disputes, as well as other civil legal needs such as domestic abuse protective orders, child custody orders, unemployment benefits, and more.
- Increase funding for RHYA programs: Increase Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs by $300 million - $150 million for current grantees and $150 million for new grantees.
- Ensure tribal eligibility for Homeless Assistance Grants: Allow tribes and tribally designated entities to be eligible for McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grant funding.
For a full list of our specific policy recommendations across the array of children’s issues, check out our letter to Congress.
Letter: Correct the Inequities in COVID-19 Response
First Focus Campaign for Children sent the following letter to Congressional leaders in both houses with a set of recommendations to address the needs of our nation’s children and youth as our country faces two crises — the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting economic impact as businesses and schools remain closed and consumers stay home.
Excerpt from the letter:
This outbreak and the resulting economic crisis are falling hardest on the most vulnerable among us, including our nation’s children. It is disrupting every facet of children’s lives and we cannot yet know all of the negative and long-lasting implications it will have on children’s healthy development and future success.
While we applaud the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, we know much more is needed to address all of the ways that this outbreak is affecting child well-being in the United States. We urge Congress to treat children equitably to help meet their needs in additional legislative packages.
Kids & COVID-19: Resource Hub
The impact on children from COVID-19 is immense. It is also variable and complicated. Every facet of the lives of children and families are being disrupted. Unfortunately, in policy discussions, children are often invisible to policymakers and so much of this nuance is ignored. Below, we have attempted to dig into this nuance and provide resources on all of the ways this crisis impacts the lives of children — and how we can work to address these challenges.
Articles & Analysis
The COVID-19 Crisis Is Catastrophic for Children Too
On a daily basis, we are witnessing an ever-changing response to the spread of COVID-19 across the entire nation. Unlike natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, flooding, or man-made disasters like 9/11 that impact the entire nation but have devastating consequences that are more consequential to a specific and defined geographic area, the COVID-19 challenge is that it is a worldwide catastrophe and is creating both health and economic crises simultaneously. Every facet of the lives of children and families are being disrupted. Unfortunately, both the short-term and long-term consequences and challenges are not being fully considered or discussed. This crisis is severe and will last for months or even years to come. Moreover, the health and trauma, impact on education and child development, and economic consequences of this calamity will last well beyond the coronavirus itself.
Building a Better America and World for Our Children
We are living in a life-changing moment where it is clear that the future will look quite different than we had imagined. We are all sheltering at home, practicing social distancing, and focusing most of our attention on the twin crises of COVID-19 and the related worldwide economic recession. Obviously, it is critically important to find that balance between protecting the health of people worldwide and protecting the economy from collapse and the harm that will have on people’s lives. Focusing on the need to improve the care and delivery of services to children and families is desperately needed, but we often forget that such work goes hand-in-hand with advocacy. However, because corporations, interest groups, and the wealthy are engaged in politics and bring money and influence to the table, the needs of children are often an afterthought in public policymaking.
COVID-19: How The Health of Children Is at Stake
Children may not be dying in the same number as adults or senior citizens due to COVID-19, but their health is at risk and so are the lives of their parents and grandparents. While children are often more susceptible to certain diseases and environmental toxins, they are also often more responsive to medical treatment and have a better ability to bounce back and heal from health issues. The latter appears to be the case with COVID-19, but it should not lead to an utter dismissal of their unique health care needs or their special circumstances by politicians.
Coronavirus confirms why we need a national commitment to address child poverty and homelessness in the United States
This current crisis makes clear that anti-poverty strategies are public health strategies. As the spread of the Coronavirus has grown, the vulnerabilities within our system have become clear. As schools close, businesses close or reduce hours, consumers stay home, and events are canceled, low-income household budgets are being stretched even thinner and children’s healthy development is at risk as children miss meals and other resources usually provided in school, and parents miss paychecks due to reduced work hours or lack of childcare. This is why it’s crucial that we address these challenges through a national commitment to cut child poverty in half within a decade.
Congress passes coronavirus relief package — what’s in it for kids?
First Focus commends the passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency bill, and even more, for using it to offer relief to America’s struggling families and children. While some of the deal’s elements will meet the most urgent needs of our nation’s children, it is far from perfect. In this fact sheet, we look at how each of the three Congressional relief packages affect children.
Fact sheet on aid to children and families in the HEROES Act
As part of ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting economic crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) on May 15, 2020, by a vote of 208 to 199. Many of these provisions build on the efforts of the two previous major pieces of COVID-19 response legislation, the CARES act, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Statements & Letters to Congress
First Focus/State Policy Advocacy & Rerfom Center Letter to Congress on COVID Child Welfare (May 26, 2020)
Statement on the passage of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (May 14, 2020)
Letter to Congress with recommendations on how to correct inequities in the COVID-19 response (April 20, 2020)
Statement on the passage for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (March 26, 2020)
Letter from Children's Budget Coalition asking Congress to prioritize children and families in Congress’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (March 24, 2020)
Letter asking Congress to prioritize the well-being of children as they respond to the coronavirus outbreak (March 20, 2020)
Statement on the passage for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (March 18, 2020)
Selected News Coverage on COVID-19's Effect on Children
- A Gloomy Prediction on How Much Poverty Could Rise via New York Times
- COVID-19 In Children: How They Contract Infection And What Are The Symptoms via NPR
- The pandemic will haunt today’s children forever. But we can help them now via The Washington Post
- Parenting during a pandemic: ‘Our children are not OK via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- This Woman and Her Kids Are U.S. Citizens — But They Can't Get Any Coronavirus Stimulus Money via VICE
- Coronavirus's collateral damage: Abused and neglected children via The Hill
- UN: Millions of children at risk of poverty and malnutrition due to coronavirus via AXIOS
- Do not forget the hidden epidemic of child abuse via Portland Press Herald
- Millions of U.S. citizens won’t get help from stimulus checks because their spouses or parents are unauthorized immigrants via Dallas Morning News
- Medicaid saved my son’s life, it saves lives in a pandemic too via The Colorado Independent
- Delays in vaccinations, delays in care: How fear of COVID-19 is affecting children's health via CNN
- Lessons From New Orleans On Child Trauma And The COVID-19 Crisis via Essence
- With no school, calls drop but child abuse hasn't amid virus via ABC News
- Gen Z was fed up with the status quo. Coronavirus could affirm their beliefs via The Washington Post
- 40 million children miss polio vaccinations due to COVID-19 via The Nation
- 25 Kids Test Positive For Coronavirus At Virginia Juvenile Detention Center via The Huffington Post
- Risk of Eviction High For Households With Kids, Especially During Coronavirus: Researcher via Youth Today
- COVID-19 adds to woes of homeless New Mexican youth who age out of foster care via Las Cruces Sun News
- The opioid crisis and community-level spillovers onto children’s education via Brookings
- Congress must act to provide millions of children with pandemic food assistance via The Hill
- The America We Need via New York Times
- Children's advocates want more COVID-19 protections via CQ News
- The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy via New York Times
- Millions of low-income children are still waiting for federal food aid via CNN
- Gen Z was fed up with the status quo. Coronavirus could affirm their beliefs via Washington Post
- Want To Get Money To People In Need Right Now? Use Food Stamps via Buzzfeed
- States should replace grab-and-go school meals with cash to families via The Hill
- Who will care for the children of COVID-19 patients? via The Philadelphia Inquirer
- The deadly mix of COVID-19, air pollution, and inequality, explained via Vox
- Children's advocates want more COVID-19 protections via CQ Roll Call
- We're all supposed to stay home. What about kids who aren't safe there? via CNN
- The Kids Aren’t All Right via The Atlantic
- Expert warns: Stay-at-home order could increase child abuse via The Missoulian
- Coronavirus roils every segment of US child welfare system via Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- New York Foster Youth Ousted from Dorms Face the Weekend in Pandemic Limbo via The Chronicle of Social Change
- Who’s Left Out of Coronavirus Stimulus Payments? Many College Students, Adult Dependents via The Wall Street Journal
- How US schools are (and aren’t) providing meals to children in the COVID-19 crisis via Vox
- FOX 5 partners with Washington Teachers' Union to air lessons on TV for students without laptops via FOX5 DC
- 10,000 Tenn. children could lose therapy as insurance companies deny telehealth coverage via WZTV Nashville
- The Urgency of Child Care During a Pandemic via DAME Magazine
Presentations & Panels
Statement: Senate package good first step for kids but children need more robust measures
We commend Senate lawmakers’ unanimous passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency bill, and even more, for using it to offer relief to America’s struggling families and children. While some of the deal’s elements will meet the most urgent needs of our nation’s children, Congress must quickly enact even more robust measures.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R.748) sets aside more than $9 billion in food assistance to keep children and families from going hungry. The bill also funds education assistance for kids out of school; community health centers, where 30% of the patients are children; the federal program that helps families pay for utilities; and programs to help support families experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
We applaud the provision of direct cash assistance to children, families and individuals, and the removal of thresholds that will now allow the money to reach the neediest people in our communities. This cash will begin — but only begin — to meet the immediate needs of struggling families for food, rent, gas, utilities and other necessities. The amount of assistance — $1,200 per adult, $500 per child — is inadequate, particularly for children, who are engaged in critical stages of development and whose families are further endangered by lack of family medical leave and other social supports. Lawmakers must move immediately to increase and extend cash assistance, ensure it reaches all children regardless of immigration status, and to create parity in the amounts given to adults and children.
As more parents lose jobs, more families will become eligible for Medicaid. Congress therefore also must increase the amount of federal assistance to states to help them meet the increased demand. We are also pleased that the package provides additional funding for child care, but as in other areas, more is needed. Health care workers and other essential personnel on the front lines of this pandemic need child care more than ever, and child care workers need support.
We look forward to the swift passage of this bill by the House, and the swift remedy of its shortcomings in the near future.
Letter: Prioritize the well-being of children as you respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.
First Focus Campaign for Children sent the following letter to Congressional leaders in both houses, urging them to prioritize the well-being of children in America as they respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Excerpt from the letter:
We applaud Congress for passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and now urge Congress to again act quickly to provide additional and immediate economic relief in the form of increased access to healthcare, direct cash transfers, housing assistance, education support, child care assistance and more in order to protect the health of all children and families in the United States and provide households with some financial stability to weather times of uncertainty.
We ask for you to act in the following ways:
- Implement an immediate and direct cash assistance program of at least $2,000 that prioritizes children and available to all children who need it most. The direct cash support should be robust and on scale with the crisis, reach those quickly who need it most, including those with no income, and available in timely payments until the economy recovers. It also should not result in the unintended exclusion of babies and young people who would qualify now but would not have been eligible in 2018. We know that an immediate cash-transfer to low-and middle-income families during this public health emergency will help to address the loss of income too many households are experiencing now, and others will endure as the economy continues to slow down, businesses close and layoffs occur. Expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit also would help to ensure some household financial stability for many low-income and vulnerable populations during these times of grave uncertainty;
- Provide emergency cash assistance to families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program;
- Increase the Medicaid FMAP by at least ten percentage points;
- Mandate 12-month continuous eligibility in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
- Reduce enrollment barriers and red tape for enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP;
- Enroll newborns without alternative coverage in Medicaid automatically;
- Provide Medicaid coverage to any population not currently eligible;
- Increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for every household enrolled in the program;
- Fund McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) at $500 million and allow for broader use of funds to meet the temporary housing, health, safety, transportation, and educational needs of homeless children and youth, including the unique needs of young children, unaccompanied youth, children and youth with disabilities, and English Language Learners;
- Increase Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs by $128 million and bypass the current competitive grant process and distribute to existing grantees;
- Increase the Service Connect for Youth on the Streets program by $22 million and also bypass the current competitive grant process and distribute to existing grantees;
- Ensure that colleges and universities create plans to support students experiencing homelessness or housing instability during campus shutdowns;
- Boost Title IV-E Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (Chafee) funds above the current level of $143 million and temporarily waive the 30 percent Chafee housing cap for the duration of the crisis in order to provide additional support for living independent services for current and former foster youth;
- Require a percent point FMAP increase for Title IV-E to match the Medicaid FMAP increase to support children and families in the child welfare system;
- Implement a moratorium on evictions nationwide;
- Increase access to civil legal services for families facing evictions after moratoriums are lifted, or if moratoriums are not put into effect;
- Suspend the operation of the public charge rule for the duration of the crisis and ensure that no medical services utilized during the crisis apply to any reinstated rule;
- Significant and flexible emergency funding that will allow child care and Head Start programs to weather the growing public health and economic crisis and preserve the nation’s supply of family child care and community-based child care programs;
- Ensure emergency child care funding includes for public health workers and first responders;
- Accelerate efforts to address technology gaps and access to broadband and devices for students and families.
Statement: Congress's coronavirus response is a good first step, but bigger, bolder measures are needed
We applaud Congress for passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, providing families and children with increased food and nutrition assistance, supplemental state funding for Medicaid, and paid sick days and leave for some workers. The bill, passed today by the Senate, was a good first step, but bigger, bolder measures are needed to aid the nation’s families.
The financial instability experienced by children living in poverty already deprives them of regular, nutritious meals; stable housing; health care and other resources required for their healthy development. While the public health crisis has taken a toll on the entire country, it has exacerbated the systemic inequities surrounding our most vulnerable families and children.
“As schools close and businesses shut down, low-income households are stretched even thinner,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “As parents miss paychecks and children miss meals, we put the healthy development of our kids at risk.”
As bipartisan advocates for making children and families a priority in federal budget and policy decisions, we urge Congress to act quickly and aggressively on additional measures. These should include direct and immediate emergency cash transfers, increased access to healthcare, housing and child care assistance, educational support, and more. For a full list of policy priorities aimed at easing the burden on children and families, please see our Letter to Congressional leaders.
First Focus Campaign for Children identifies 120 lawmakers who prioritize children
In 2019, nearly one-in-six of our nation’s children lived in poverty. The number of kids without health insurance rose to more than 4 million, reversing two decades of progress. More than 12 million children stared down hunger each day. And the federal government worked to deprive millions more of food, housing, and other life-sustaining assistance.
First Focus Campaign for Children today released its 2019 Legislative Scorecard, which identifies 120 members of Congress who had the courage to buck this trend and put children first. These Champions and Defenders of children introduced bills to safeguard children’s programs, supported beneficial measures and voted against those that would harm children. Some even defied their party leadership to protect children’s interests.
“Kids don’t vote and they don’t have political action committees,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “That’s why it’s up to lawmakers to make children a priority and protect their best interests. We commend these 120 members of Congress for putting children first and hope their contribution will inspire their colleagues to do the same.”
FFCC’s 2019 Legislative Scorecard ranks policymakers according to votes and bill sponsorships taken during the first session of the 116th Congress that prioritize the well-being of our nation’s children. The 25-page report examines key pieces of legislation on children’s health insurance, child hunger, homelessness, child abuse and neglect, tax credits and other issues critical to advancing the needs of our kids and families. The report names 40 Senators and 80 Representatives, from both parties, as Champions or Defenders for children in the 116th Congress.
Some key takeaways from the 2019 Scorecard:
- Women were two-and-a-half times more likely than men to be Champions or Defenders.
- Percentage of delegations who are Champions or Defenders breaks along regional lines:
- 43% of lawmakers from Western states are Champions or Defenders
- 40% of lawmakers from the Northeast are Champions or Defenders
- 21% of lawmakers from the Midwest are Champions or Defenders
- 9% of lawmakers from the Southwest/Plains states are Champions or Defenders
- 7% of lawmakers from the Southeast are Champions or Defenders. Florida leads the region with four. Other states in the region have only one.
Please view and download the full report at www.ffccscorecard.org.
Letter: Our Support for the School Food Modernization Act of 2019 (S.1949/H.R. 3444)
On June 9, 2019, First Focus Campaign for Children wrote a letter to Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Representative Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) in support of their School Food Modernization Act of 2019 (S.1949/H.R. 3444).
In 2018, school cafeterias served nearly 5 billion lunches, of which three-quarters were at a free or reduced price. Schools are making terrific progress in providing healthier school foods with more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains; less salt and saturated fat; no trans-fat; and healthier snacks and beverages. However, many school cafeterias are still using outdated, inefficient equipment which inhibits their ability to meet strong evidence-based school food nutrition standards that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Given that school meals are a critical source of nutrition for children from low-income and food-insecure households, it is crucial to modernize kitchen infrastructure and improve workforce training to improve the quality and efficiency of our school food operations.Investing resources in nutrient-rich meals pays off in the form of improved health and educational outcomes for participating students.
We applaud you for recognizing the federal government’s responsibility to support school food operators in serving a healthy and appealing meal to all participating children. The School Food Modernization Act provides crucial loan guarantees and grants to improve our schools’ lunch facilities and equip kitchen staff with the necessary training to prepare food with fresh, nutritious ingredients.
Our Topline Priorities on Child Nutrition Reauthorization
Federal child nutrition programs are critically important supports that provide poor and low-income children with nutritious food so that they can learn, grow, and thrive. However, gaps remain that prevent federal child nutrition programs from fully addressing the problem of child food insecurity, which currently impacts 12.5 million—or one in six—children. As Congress undertakes the process of Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR), lawmakers must make significant investments that strengthen these critical programs and expand access so that all children have the healthy food they need to thrive. This document provides a brief overview of our key CNR priorities.
Letter: In Support of the Stop Summer Hunger Act of 2019
On June 25th, 2019, First Focus Campaign for Children wrote a letter to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representative Susan Davis (D-CA) in support of their Stop Summer Hunger Act of 2019 (S. 1941/H.R. 3378.)
Excerpt from the Letter: First Focus Campaign for Children knows it will take a multi-pronged approach to ensure that these children have enough to eat during the summer months. This includes strengthening and expanding summer meal sites so that they are accessible to more children, extending the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program so that families can purchase additional food for their children during the summer, and, where appropriate, establishing non-congregate models to fill in the gaps.
The Stop Child Summer Hunger Act of 2019 takes the important step of making this comprehensive package a reality by making the Summer EBT program available to all families with children eligible for free and reduced price lunch. Summer EBT has already proven to reduce very low child food security by 33 percent. Meanwhile, a recent landmark study by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that making Summer EBT available to all eligible school-age children, in concert with overall increases to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, could reduce child poverty by 18 percent. We applaud this legislation and look forward to the process of Child Nutrition Reauthorization as an opportunity to incorporate it into a comprehensive package that closes the summer hunger gap.