Although rates of material hardship among families with young children have been declining in recent months, 1 in 4 families recently surveyed by RAPID-EC, a biweekly survey of families with young children, are still having difficulty affording their basic needs, including paying for food, rent and bills. That’s a slightly higher rate than when the pandemic began last spring. Meanwhile, food hardship rates for children are still significantly higher than pre-pandemic. In late March 2021, 8.8 million children lived in a home where they weren’t eating enough because their families couldn’t afford food, compared to 1.1 million children in December 2019.

These rates of food and material hardship have been consistently higher for Black and Latinx households than white households; material hardship rates have also been higher for single-parent households, families with children with disabilities and low-income families.

“There are still families struggling with income, still having bills piling up,” said Jason Gindele, executive director of Mainspring Schools, a child care center in Austin, Texas, which along with providing care, has helped families pay rent and buy food during the pandemic. “These are families who were living paycheck to paycheck before the pandemic and now suddenly have six, eight, ten months of rent or utilities [to pay].”

Experts say the pandemic has illuminated how fraught the nation’s support system is for families —and what needs to be in place to help families recover. “Support was already fragmented and weak, and so the pandemic has exacerbated that,” said Cathy McHorse, vice president of Success by 6 at the United Way for Greater Austin.

Coming out of the pandemic, parents and experts have identified a host of policies that could help. The expansion of the Child Tax Credit, which will come in the form of advanced monthly payments to families beginning in July, could make a big dent in child poverty and alleviate some of the chronic stress faced by families. Making that tax credit permanent is one of the main recommendations from experts and child-focused organizations.

Read the full article about family recovery after COVID-19 by Jackie Mader at The Hechinger Report.