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Report: KY Kids' Well-Being has Stalled, But Tax Credits Could Help


Thursday, June 24, 2021   

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - New survey data taken during the pandemic offers a clear picture of how Kentucky kids and families are faring. The Commonwealth ranks 37th in the nation when it comes to overall child well-being, according to the 2021 Kids Count Data Book released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates, said there are opportunities to help families struggling with food insecurity, housing and mental health.

"If the federal child tax credit was made permanent," said Brooks, "we know that positively impacts 93% of kids in Kentucky, so if we want to talk about economic well-being and if we want to take actionable steps, that's really important."

The report found that in 2020, one in five Kentucky adults with children had little or no confidence in his or her ability to make the next rent or mortgage payment, with the highest rates experienced by Black and Hispanic families.

Fifteen percent of Kentucky families reported sometimes or often not having enough food to eat throughout last year, and more than one in four Kentucky adults living in households with children felt down, depressed or hopeless in 2020, with only slight improvement seen by March of this year.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, explained that both state and federal child tax credits are critical to eliminating structural inequities in the tax code.

She said more than half of Black children historically have been ineligible for the full Child Tax Credit because their household incomes are too low, while less than 25% of White children faced this barrier.

"We are excited and grateful that lawmakers passed the expansion," said Boissiere. "And we're calling on them to make that expansion permanent. We'd like to ensure that we don't have the largest-ever one-year reduction in the number of children who live in poverty followed immediately by the largest ever one-year increase."

Brooks said the data also show the state should maintain a focus on increasing access to high-quality child care, and points out the American Rescue Plan funds used to stabilize the child-care sector should include measures to recruit and retain early care educators.

He noted that women of color make up a large percentage of the early-childhood care workforce and continue to shoulder the weight of underinvestment.

"So this report actually, oddly, leaves me optimistic," said Brooks. "Because there are very palpable, very practical, very achievable, and very common-ground solutions."

He added that policies like paid family leave for state employees are additional steps the state could take to encourage private employees to offer paid time off and increase family and economic stability, particularly for households with young children.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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