COVID-19 Pandemic Heightens Struggles for AZ Families, Kids

More than 20% of Arizonans have reported feeling "depressed or hopeless" as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Maridav/Adobe Stock)


— A new report details the struggles of many Arizona families in the COVID-19 crisis, from unstable housing and hunger to a lack of health insurance and mental-health challenges. 

The research from the Annie E Casey Foundation is a 50-state look at recent household survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau. David Lujan, director at the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, said the pandemic is putting stress on most Arizonans, but the report confirms communities of color are being disproportionately affected.  

“I think the pandemic has shown the racial inequities that were already in place have only become exacerbated by the pandemic,” Lujan said. “It really shows, I think, the need for our elected officials to step up and provide needed relief in these areas.”

As an example, the report finds overall, 12% of Arizona families are now considered food insecure because of the pandemic. That number increases to 34% among African American families, 22% for mixed-race households, and 14% for Latino families.

The report identifies other stressors – the inability to make rent or mortgage payments, little or no access to health care, and increasing levels of depression and anxiety, especially among children. Lujan said state and federal assistance is crucial to ensuring Arizonans’ health and well-being.

“This is not going to be the last crisis that we face in Arizona,” he said. “We really have to look at what are the investments that we’re making to lift up these communities, so that this doesn’t happen again in the next crisis.”

Leslie Biossiere, vice president of external affairs at the Casey Foundation, said the report suggests the COVID-19 crisis will likely have the longest-lasting effects on the nation’s children. 

“All children, in good times and in bad, should have their basic needs met,” Boissiere said. “Children should not be hungry. They should have safe, secure housing. They should have access to quality education. Parents should have access to child care, so that they can work to support those families.”

The report urges policymakers to push COVID-19 issues to the top of their 2021 agendas. It calls for steps toward racial and ethnic equality, improving children’s physical and mental health, helping families achieve financial stability, and better and more equitable funding for schools.