It's Time to Talk About Children and COVID-19

It's Time to Talk About Children and COVID-19

KERSTIN RUST, June 2, 2020 

United Way steps up whenever our communities need us. 

Over the last two months, we have mobilized our partners, volunteers and advocates to quickly respond to the unprecedented needs created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
Now, as we transition from the response to the recovery, we must turn our attention to a population that has often been forgotten – children. 
While children have largely been spared by the health impacts of the virus, the school closures, economic uncertainty and upheaval of their lives will have a far-reaching impact on their education, development and well-being. 
According to Human Rights Watch, over 1.5 billion students are out of school around the world. The job and income losses will increase rates of child poverty, human trafficking and exploitation. Lockdowns and quarantines also increase the likelihood of children witnessing domestic violence or suffering abuse.  
United Way of Kankakee and Iroquois Counties has a strong track record of bringing together stakeholders from all sectors and systems to collaborate on solutions that support early childhood development through policy formation, environmental changes and direct services.  
The Success By 6 Coalition, co-convened with the Community Foundation of Kankakee River Valley, and our community partners have celebrated many big wins this past year including: 
  • $2.1 million grant to address childhood trauma and resources for families in Kankakee County, 
  • Kankakee County now has the most Theraplay-trained practitioners in the world, with over 100+ people certified, 
  • Successful implementation of the Early Development Instrument in four local school districts to measure kindergarten readiness, 
  • $240k federal grant to support violence prevention programs at Kankakee School District 111, which includes mental health crisis intervention and suicide prevention strategies. 

THE TIME FOR ACTION IS NOW 

There’s still so much more to do and it’s time to act swiftly and urgently to respond to the needs of our most vulnerable young people. Children must be at the center of rebuilding our communities and reimagining a post-COVID future. 
In the United States, that starts with strengthening and expanding the programs that we know provide a lifeline and critical safety-net for children and families. Here are four actions Congress must take to help children thrive and succeed during this time of uncertainty. 
1. Save the Child Care Industry from Collapse: Child care providers have played a vital role in supporting essential workers so they can stay on the job during the COVID-19 emergency. As states and communities begin to reopen businesses, child carecenters are critical to ensuring parents can get back to work. However, many centers on are on the brink of economic collapse and without immediate action, may disappear altogether. An emergency appropriation is needed to keep child care centers open and help them take the necessary precautions to keep our children safe and healthy. 
2. Help Students Access Online and Distance Learning: As children adapt to learning in a virtual environment, we must ensure they have access to Wi-Fi hotspots, home internet connectivity, and digital devices to continue their education at home. Congress must increase funding in the FCC E-rate program to better support students and close the widening digital divide in low-income and rural communities. 
3. Prevent Child Poverty, Increase EITC Participation: The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is considered one of the most effective programs for reducing child poverty and promoting financial stability for low-income families. Expanding the EITC for workers not raising children at home and lowering the age of eligibility, as well as increasing the Child Tax Credit will protect millions more children from falling into poverty as a result of this pandemic. 
4. Address the Growing Food Insecurity Needs of Children: With schools closed, children have less access to nutritious meals during the day. We must increase funding for child nutrition programs that are responding to an increased demand for food for children and families. In addition, temporarily increasing the basic Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps ensure families can afford to put food on the table.  
The consequences of inaction could affect children’s health, academic success, and cognitive and social development for years to come. 
Join us in advocating for children and consider supporting local efforts by donating today. Because every child deserves the best start in life. 

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