COVID-19 Response Must Address Child Suffering

January 19, 2021 | Ohio

Girl in sun dress smiling.

COVID-19 Response Must Address Child Suffering

January 19, 2020

Over the last several months, we’ve heard about the possibility of a K-shaped recovery. This means that people who are at the lower end of the earning spectrum are actually experiencing higher levels of unemployment and lower wage growth than those at the higher end. What this results in is greater wage inequality.

Economic inequality has been rising steadily in the U.S. for decades, well before the pandemic. The wealth gap between our richest and poorest Americans has more than doubled from 1989-2016. In fact, following the Great Recession from 2007-2016, “the median net worth of the top 20% increased 13%, to $1.2 million. For the top 5%, it increased by 4%, to $4.8 million,” all while, according to the PEW Research Center, “in contrast, the median net worth of families in lower tiers of wealth decreased by at least 20%. Families in the second-lowest fifth experienced a 39% loss (from $32,100 in 2007 to $19,500 in 2016).” Further, for Black Americans, the racial wealth gap persists and compounds on this growing inequality in our economic system, in what Ta-Nehisi Coates calls “the quiet plunder.”

These are important data points for us to be aware of as we enter the next biennial budget and as Congress deliberates the next stimulus package. A K-shaped recession means that families already struggling with rent, food, and the other basic necessities of life are struggling even more while those at the upper rungs of wealth distribution are earning more through their wages and investments. At the beginning of this pandemic and related recession we heard repeatedly that we are all in the same boat and must get through this storm together; and yet, while some of us are in yachts and others are clinging to driftwood to stay above water, can we really say that we are all in this together?

However, there is hope and we can do something to end child suffering and family economic instability during this time. In the state budget and the federal recovery package, as a society, we must choose to do the right thing and make sure that families and children are not left behind in this recovery. We are digging into President-elect Biden’s plan for the next pandemic recovery bill and anxiously awaiting Governor DeWine’s biennial budget proposal expected to be introduced in early February. What is included in these two plans and passed over the next several months will greatly influence the trajectory of our recovery and the futures of our most vulnerable children. We promise to do our part to work towards a future worthy of our children and one that sets them on the path of opportunity and justice.