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Report: Idaho Families 'Left On Their Own' During Pandemic

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Their Own' During Pandemic About 1 in 9 Idaho families doesn't have health insurance during the pandemic.

As in the rest of the country, families in Idaho are struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows 11% of Idaho families don't have enough to eat and 13% aren't confident they'll be able to pay the rent or mortgage on time.

Director of Idaho Voices for Children Christine Tiddens said the number of people collecting jobless benefits is better in the state than the rest of the nation - 4.8% compared with 7.2% - but families still are having a rough time.

"The new report shows that many children and families across the state have been left on their own without support for their basic needs during a public-health crisis beyond their control," Tiddens said.

She said despite the growing number of food-insecure households, there was a 3% decrease in the number of Idahoans accessing food assistance between February and August. The Casey Foundation report also found 11% of Idaho families don't have health insurance, and 18% reported feeling depressed during the pandemic.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs with the Casey Foundation, said the pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated racial and ethnic inequities across the country. She said Black, Latino and Native communities in particular have been hard hit.

"If you look at food security, 14% of households reported that they didn't have enough food to eat. When you compare that to African-Americans, it's 23% - so, almost double - and 19% for Latinos, compared to 9% for Asians and 10% for whites," Boissiere said.

Tiddens said Idaho is in a unique position because tax revenue is relatively high and lawmakers are entering the 2021 legislative session with significant reserves.

"We will argue that the health and well-being of Idaho's children and families are really top priority and should be where we invest money to ensure that we get through the public health crisis and the economic environment that we find ourselves in," Tiddens said.

The report recommends policymakers make racial and ethnic equity a top priority in responding to the pandemic, suggesting financial support for families, and more equitable funding for education.