Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) releases its first report in a two-part snapshot series, Newark Kids Count Data Snapshot: The Impact of COVID-19. The report analyzes how the city’s children and families are faring since the pandemic’s onset. In the first snapshot, A Look at the Utilization of Programs Assisting Families, data show that the pandemic disrupted long-term trends in declining unemployment rates, likely causing a sharp increase in need.

“The City of Newark has taken extraordinary measures to help support its residents, which impacts the well-being of its children,” explains Cecilia Zalkind, president and CEO of ACNJ. “They have created a comprehensive website dedicated to keeping everyone informed throughout the pandemic, opened up vaccination sites and have supplied an abundance of resources for both residents and small businesses. But the pandemic has been devastating to families and may require a long road to recovery.”

Though data show positive trends for Newark from 2015 to 2019, the pandemic disrupted that progress. Newark’s unemployment rates were declining between 2015 and 2019, similar to Essex County and New Jersey, though Newark always faced higher rates. From March to April 2020, however, monthly unemployment rates rose from 6.2 percent to 19.7 percent, compared to 3.7 percent to 15.9 percent for the state. Though rates decreased in the fall, they started to steadily rise again as winter came.

“The hardships documented in this report are not limited to adults,” Zalkind states. “Children face the negative effects through less food on the table or housing insecurities. This reality underscores the necessity for supports to help ensure that Newark’s children do not fall through the cracks as a result of COVID-19.”

Data for Newark’s children receiving benefits from the NJ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (NJ SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) showed a different picture, as trends did not show significant increase, or even showed a downward trend, from June 2016 to June 2020. During the summer into December 2020, the number of Newark’s children receiving SNAP benefits increased by more than 10,000 individuals.

“The City of Newark has established programs to help promote the nation’s mission to get a vaccine shot in every arm, while also looking for ways to better support its residents during this difficult time,” explains Alana Vega, ACNJ Kids Count Coordinator. “As we anxiously await the end of the pandemic, we will continue to track the data for children so that we can make more informed decisions and craft a brighter future.”

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