Pulse of Delaware shows rising poverty concerns


DOVER — Hopefully, you started your morning reading Page 1 today.

Glenn Rolfe’s article kicks off some research into poverty in Delaware we have undertaken.

Reporter Noah Zucker will have a story about food insecurity in Monday’s edition.

Several such issues, contributing to a sense of instability, have only grown during the pandemic.

Here are four relevant statistics for Delawareans with children in their households:

  • 16% said they sometimes or often do not have enough food to eat.
  • 18% said they have no confidence in paying rent or mortgage on time.
  • 6% said they currently do not have health insurance.
  • 16% said they felt down, depressed or hopeless.

Those U.S. Census Household Pulse Survey findings were revealed last month in “Kids, Families and COVID-19 — Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond.”

The surveys have been ongoing weekly since April.

Some problems existed prior to March last year, said Janice Barlow, director of Kids Count in Delaware.

“But it has put a spotlight on the places in the safety net that we never really fixed,” said Mrs. Barlow.

The safety net, she said, is “patchwork” — pieces of legislation and initiatives that cover some concerns for some people.

“We’ve had people slipping through that for a long time,” said Mrs. Barlow. “The pandemic is bringing awareness that we have more work to do.”

An example: Nationally, the share of children without health insurance grew to 6% in 2019, up from 5% in 2018. Updated numbers for 2020 are not available yet.

However, the survey suggested that 12% fall into this category now. The breakdown, by race: 23% of Latinos, 14% of African Americans, 8% of Whites.


Kids Count in Delaware shares this information with the governor’s office, the state legislature and Delaware’s congressional delegation.

The “Pandemic Pain Points” report was a national effort of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a partner to Kids Count.

The report recommends that governments put racial and ethnic equity responses first, prioritize the physical and mental health of children, expand unemployment insurance for part-time and low-wage earners, improve access to needy family assistance and child care grants, ensure better and more equitable funding for schools and more.

“The first order of business in 2021 will be to determine how best to navigate the second year of the pandemic,” the report said. “These are painful times, but this nation has the resources to meet the needs of those most affected by the health and economic crisis.”

Mrs. Barlow said she hopes there is a concentrated effort on children.

“I think there is just so much that can be done,” she said. “Across health, food security, mental health, housing, everything. I think Delaware needs to focus more on the inequities and making sure there’s equitable opportunities for all kids.”

Mrs. Barlow, during our brief conversation Friday, said she did not want to sound like she was dwelling only on the doom and gloom.

“With COVID, it’s sort of hard, you know — where is that silver lining? But we have found a few things,” she said.

For example, she said Medicaid enrollment is up after some regulatory changes.

“The jury is still out on whether the mental health of teenagers, in particular, is better or worse,” said Mrs. Barlow. “There is some speculation among researchers that there may be a silver lining to this. Kids are getting more sleep because they are not getting up as early. And they’re spending more time with families.”


Kids Count has been doing a series of “Timeline Tuesdays” sessions once a month since September, starting with a session on health insurance.

Last month, food insecurity was the topic, and officials from government food assistance programs, the Food Bank and schools participated.

As we have reported in the Delaware State News in the past year, there are a myriad of programs out there that help in this area. Schools, for example, have participated in some unique efforts, such as using buses to deliver meals.
Mrs. Barlow noted a friend’s remark.

“She said, ‘If it works for us in a pandemic, why doesn’t it work for us all the time?’”

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