By Rachel Metz

Health

While confirmed COVID-19 cases among children are less common than among adults, thousands of children and youth have still contracted the disease.

Vaccinations: DC’s 12-15 year olds face stark disparities in their COVID-19 vaccination rates. While as of August 31, 2021 7 out of 10 Ward 2 youth in this age range had been fully vaccinated, not even 1 out of 10 Ward 8 youth in this age range had been fully vaccinated.

Of course, children and youth are also impacted when a parent, family member, teacher, or other caring adult gets sick. And their family’s economic security and their educational opportunities are also being threatened by the pandemic.

Economic Justice

Loss of Income: While the quarter of DC households with children who, in spring and summer 2021, reported having lost employment income in the past month is an improvement compared to the nearly half of households with children who reported having lost income earlier in the pandemic, it is clear that many families are still feeling the economic impact of the pandemic. Families of color disproportionately continue to bear that burden: roughly a third reported having lost employment income.

Roughly 15,000 excluded workers, primarily our undocumented parents and residents, will see a one-time payment of $3,000 after not receiving unemployment benefits during the pandemic. This is the direct result of their tireless organizing efforts that pushed the DC Council to add an extra $5 million to the fund, growing it to $41 million. While still far short of what they demanded, they showed that grassroots organizing efforts produce real change for working families.

Youth Unemployment: Between April and July 2020, thousands more young people received unemployment insurance as during the same period a year earlier. While during the pre-pandemic period an average of only 95 youth under age 22 and 288 youth ages 22-24 received unemployment insurance each month, during the early months of the pandemic 2,836 youth under ages 22 and 5,302 youth ages 22-24 received unemployment insurance. These numbers have been steadily decreasing since re-opening began in late June, but as of June 2021 are still nearly four times higher than prior to the pandemic for older youth and roughly five times higher for younger youth.

Housing Insecurity: Roughly four out of ten DC renters with children said they have no or only slight confidence in their ability to make next month’s rent or were deferring their payment, over three times the rate of renters without children. To support these families DC passed an eviction moratorium, and while it recently voted to phase out the moratorium rather than have it end abruptly, there is still reason to be concerned about families’ housing security as the moratorium is phased out.

Food Insecurity: Many Black and Latinx adults in households with children report sometimes or often not having enough to eat in the last week. Roughly one in four Black households said this.

Educational Opportunities

Early Care & Education Access: During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic many early learning programs switched formats, or shut down for a time, or had to reduce capacity. Both for this reason and for others (e.g. family safety concerns, parent financial constraints), the District’s child care centers and family child care homes reported operating at an average enrollment rate of 61% of their licensed capacity, with 33% of enrolled children attending on an average day. At the same time, the pandemic exacerbated the already strained situation for this vital but underpaid early learning workforce. 84% of child care centers who reported to the survey reported experiencing a staffing shortage (results were not reported for family child care homes). 73% of survey respondents identified low wages as the main recruitment barrier and 59% say that low wages are the most common reason that educators leave the field, followed by 14% who said lack of benefits. Recognizing the import of this looming crisis, the District made emergency grants available to child care providers using federal relief funds and temporarily increased reimbursement rates to providers for serving children enrolled in the childcare subsidy program. In August 2021, the DC Council voted to increase compensation for early educators, paid for by a new tax increase on the District’s highest earners.

Distance Learning: Many District families are worried about their children’s safety as students return to in-person learning. Some parents have sought medical exemptions to the in-person requirement due to asthma or other health issues that put their children at higher risk, but only a tiny fraction of students have been approved for distance learning in the 2021-22 school year.

Find more information about the impacts of COVID-19 measures in our data references section.

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Rachel Metz is the Research and Data Manager of DC Action.