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Report Highlights Racial Disparities for Virginia Families

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Nationally, Black and Latino families report greater struggles with housing and food during the pandemic, matching trends within Virginia. (Graphic: Connor Scribner)

*Yasmine Jumaa and Roberto Roldan reported this story.

The pandemic has taken a hit on the economy and worsened existing disparities in access to basic needs like housing, food and healthcare. 

A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation highlights those disparities in outcomes for people of color.

Data in the report shows that 25% of Virginia’s Black families with children said they sometimes or often don’t have enough to eat, and 36% aren’t sure they can make their next rent or mortgage payment on time. 

Lauren Snellings, research director with the youth advocacy group Voices for Virginia’s Children, said exposure to this kind of instability could have long-term effects.

“These stressors that are felt by families are also felt by children, and can impact their development and introduce new levels of trauma that can be felt throughout their lifetime,” Snellings said. 

She added that immediate intervention from state and federal governments is necessary. Some of those policies include:

The Annie E. Casey Foundation report also highlighted disparities in access to healthcare. Racial inequities in healthcare are a long-standing problem, exacerbated by the pandemic. Within Richmond's predominantly Black public housing properties, a resident of Gilpin Court, on average, lives 20 years fewer than a resident of Westover Hills, a wealthier, predominantly white neighborhood. 

The survey data shows that 11% of Virginia families do not currently have access to health insurance. Nationwide, Black and Latino families were more likely to be uninsured. Historic levels of unemployment caused by pandemic restrictions have contributed to the loss of health insurance, since most Americans get health insurance through their work.

Emily Griffey, chief policy officer with Voices for Virginia’s Children, said the data tracks with Virginia’s historic increase in medicaid enrollment.

“Having Medicaid expansion in Virginia provided that safety net that they’re going to be missing in other states,” Griffey said.

The report also showed that nearly 20% of Virginia families reported feeling depressed or hopeless. It adds that states could consider increasing the number of school counselors to alleviate the pandemic’s effect on childrens’ mental health.

You can read the full report here.