07 Dec The Pandemic’s Top Challenges for Mississippians are Food Insecurity and Childcare
Based on a survey of Supplemental Nutrition Act Program (SNAP) recipients in Mississippi this fall by the SouthStrong campaign, the Southern Economic Advancement Project (SEAP) found that the pandemic’s top challenges for Mississippians have been food insecurity and childcare issues. SEAP’s report recognizes that government efforts to provide assistance to those hardest hit by the pandemic have been helpful and emphasizes that more measures must be taken to avoid further hardship as the pandemic continues to rage.
It is clear that COVID-19 has affected people differently based on their employment situations, and people of color have been the most adversely affected because they are disproportionately employed in low-wage service industry jobs that have been sharply curtailed during this economic downturn. In addition to being laid off from work, many families have had to deal with having young children home for virtual learning; without child care options, at least one parent must stay home with them.
Without in-person schooling, the 374,000 (74% of school-age children) who qualified for free and reduced lunch last year have been without access to breakfast and lunch. Mississippi participated in a special Pandemic EBT program to provide SNAP benefits to these families, but those benefits are long gone. We urge the Mississippi Department of Human Services to do whatever it can to apply for and implement a second round of P-EBT funding for children who are not attending school in person.
We are many months away from a full economic recovery, and we must protect the most vulnerable in our communities. People whose income has been sharply reduced or eliminated entirely because of a global pandemic need help, and this is the time for our government to step in. Additional SNAP benefits, utility and rent assistance, and childcare options are critical for survival. As one survey participant summarized, “We need help covering food and utilities. With jobs cutting hours, we are not able to keep up with things. The more this goes on the harder it will be to catch up or we will all fall behind completely.”