By Nadia Ramlagan
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Nearly one quarter of Tennessee households with children say they have slight or no confidence they’d be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time, according to the latest Census household survey data.
A new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation found the number is much higher for Black households. Richard Kennedy, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, said housing instability is linked to a host of negative health outcomes for children.
“I think that, for me, it was striking and concerning and alarming that nearly 1 in 4 households with children reported being likely to face eviction or foreclosure within the next two months,” Kennedy said.
He said state and federal lawmakers could expand access to unemployment insurance for part-time and gig-economy workers, low-wage workers and students to help stave off future housing woes, and he added policymakers should cut red tape that prevents families from using programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said other indicators of child well-being, such as health coverage among families, are worsening as the pandemic stretches on. The data show 13% of Tennessee households with children lack health insurance.
“The result of the pandemic is that many of these indicators of child well-being have suffered tremendously,” Boissiere said. “And this is creating an increased and profound effect on families across the country.”
The report also found 1 in 5 Tennessee families felt “depressed or hopeless,” and 1 in 3 reported feeling “nervous, anxious or on edge.”
Kennedy said the state’s mental-health resources are being put to the test. But he added providing economic relief, whether through policy change or cash assistance, could ease some of the stress so many families are experiencing.
“So I think that we have to keep children’s issues – whether it’s mental health, whether it’s access to health, whether it’s family economic support – we have to keep those front and center and we have to keep that infrastructure and foundation in place to be able to adapt, be flexible, and meet the needs that our youngest Tennesseans are going to have next year,” Kennedy said.
He noted Tennessee families continue to struggle with food insecurity and hunger, with 11% of families reporting sometimes or often not having enough to eat during the months of September and October.