March Newsletter | A Year Later: COVID-19 And Equitable Policy

Deaconess Community,

This month marks one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. And while many may be breathing a sigh of relief with the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines, the trauma and disproportionate impact of the pandemic continues to unfold. From loss of family income, to school closures, to a reduction in health and social services, to increased exposure to illness and death, the devastating impact of this past year on children and their wellbeing is immeasurable. We will continue to learn of the effects in the years to come.

But, for now we must meet their current needs and prepare a future for them, through public policy, that create conditions for them to thrive.

Immediately, this requires substantive federal, state and local policy changes that are sustainable beyond the pandemic, such as:

Increasing access to comprehensive health care services by:

  • equitably distributing COVID-19 vaccines so caregivers seeking to be vaccinated in communities with increased risk of illness and death have access to vaccines; and
  • implementing medicaid expansion in Missouri so more children and families are insured and have access to health, particularly behavorial health, services.

Positioning families to achieve economic stability by:

  • expanding, extending and distributing housing assistance to prevent displacement;
  • permanently expanding the federal Child Tax Credit which would allow qualifying families to reduce their income tax burden;
  • creating an Earned Income Tax Credit in Missouri which would reduce the tax burden for 494,000 families with low earned incomes;
  • eliminating barriers to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and increasing the maximum benefit in Missouri to provide families with cash assistance to meet immediate needs; and
  • increasing wages so that workers earn family-supporting and living wages.

By no means is this list exhausitive. However, these few, but mighty, sweeping policy changes will meet immediate and future needs of thousands, and in many instances, millions of children and families. What we have learned this past year is that child advocates have been right all along. The policies they have been championing for years are not only good for children but for everyone, and dare I say the economy. We must do well by our children.

In service to our children,

Cheryl D.S. Walker
Interim President and CEO
Deaconess Foundation

To read the rest of our March Newsletter, click here.