Missouri is ranked 30th among states for overall child wellbeing in a new report, and advocates for kids and families say the pandemic has underscored the need for strong supports.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Book shows 17% of Missouri children lived in poverty in 2019, though that number was down from 2010, and 7% of children lacked health insurance. But in the pandemic, many more households lost income and health coverage.
Tracy Greever-Rice, program director for Kids Count Missouri, added even as the state makes progress in many areas, racial disparities persist. “It’s a perpetual issue in the state of Missouri,” Greever-Rice explained. “And one that we focus on through an equity lens more and more, to try and ameliorate.”
According to a Census Bureau national survey, since the pandemic, Black and Latino households with children reported far more concerns than white households on issues ranging from mental health and access to health insurance to the ability to pay their rent or mortgage on time and put food on the table.
The American Rescue Plan includes expanding the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 a year to up to $3,600 per child, depending on their age. Payments start in July, and Greever-Rice contended they’ll be a big help to Missouri families. “It will improve their ability to make their day-in-day-out life’s work, and to ensure that their children have adequate access to childcare that is of high quality, safe and nurturing,” Greever-Rice asserted.
Missouri is one of the remaining hold-out states for Medicaid expansion. Despite voters’ approval in 2020, the state Legislature has so far refused to fund it, and a court ruling is expected soon.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, said because the American Rescue Plan includes extra incentives for expanding Medicaid, it’s time. “And we’ve seen the states who have Medicaid expansion have a significantly lower number of children and families who are uninsured,” Boissiere observed.
(Photo courtesy Missouri News Service)