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Data show challenges New Jersey faced pre-pandemic, areas needed to address for recovery from COVID-19
State and national reports show struggles with hunger, housing, health insurance and mental health
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY — In the midst of the global pandemic, New Jersey families are faring better than other states, but still struggling in the areas of food security, housing and health, according to Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
In addition to the national snapshot, the New Jersey Kids Count 2020 Pocket Guide and Data Dashboard, released today by Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ), provide pre-pandemic data for the state and each of the 21 counties that will serve as benchmarks as we examine the impact of COVID-19 and monitor the state’s recovery.
Prior to the pandemic, the cost of rent comprised a significant portion of most New Jersey households’ budgets, according to the NJ Kids Count 2020 Pocket Guide. In 2019, 47 percent of households spent 30 percent or more of their income on rental costs. For several counties, the percentage of rent burdened households was even higher; at least half of the households in Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Ocean and Salem counties spent too much of their income on rent.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation report shows housing continues to be a concern for families during the public health emergency. Data from the Household Pulse Survey indicate that 19 percent of New Jersey’s adults living in households with children reported little or no confidence in their ability to afford their next rent or mortgage payment. The data reflect the realities of high housing costs in the Garden State, paired with recent widespread job losses for many families.
“The national report demonstrates how households across the country are challenged to meet basic needs during this time, while our NJ Kids Count County data shows us what we already know - families have been struggling even before the pandemic,” said Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of ACNJ, the KIDS COUNT grantee for the Garden State.
The Casey Foundation identified four “pain points” for children and families caused by the pandemic, that require immediate action:
- FOOD SECURITY: Nine percent of New Jersey’s adults living in households with children said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat, compared to 14 percent of adults in households with children nationwide.
- HOUSING STABILITY: Nineteen percent of New Jersey’s adults living in households with children had slight or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment on time, just above the national figure of 18 percent.
- AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: Ten percent of New Jersey’s adults living in households with children reported that they did not have health insurance, while 12 percent reported not having health insurance nationally.
- MENTAL HEALTH: Fourteen percent of New Jersey’s adults living in households with children felt down, depressed or hopeless, compared to 21 percent of the nation’s adults living in households with children.
“The Garden State was one of the states hardest hit by the pandemic and national, state and local leaders responded by swiftly enacting policy changes,” Zalkind said. “New Jersey’s school districts set up free and reduced-price meal distribution sites and the Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) program enabled low-income students to purchase groceries.”
In addition, the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act provided New Jersey with additional federal Medicaid matching funds for the duration of the public health emergency. A condition of this additional funding prohibited the termination of beneficiaries’ Medicaid eligibility through the duration of the COVID-19 crisis (with exceptions).
“Federal funding like food assistance has helped many households through the pandemic, but state and federal leaders must remain committed in addressing the growing needs of our state and removing any roadblocks that hinder the ability for families to access critical programs and services. These investments must be supported and sustained at every step,” Zalkind said.
Additional information is available at www.aecf.org. Journalists interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Kids Count report can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.
About Advocates for Children of New Jersey
Advocates for Children of New Jersey is the trusted, independent voice putting children’s needs first for more than 40 years. Our work results in better laws and policies, more effective funding and stronger services for children and families. And it means that more children are given the chance to grow up safe, healthy, and educated. For more information, visit www.acnj.org. Follow ACNJ on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/acnjforkids and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/acnjforkids.
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.