COVID-19: We Must Protect the Health and Well-Being of All Children, Youth, and Families

A Statement from Judith Meltzer, President of the Center for the Study of Social Policy

WASHINGTON, DC (March 16, 2020)—As a nation, we are confronting a public health emergency and a looming economic crisis. The Trump administration’s response to COVID-19 to date has been woefully inadequate and has failed to provide leadership and supports to help American citizens, not just the stock market, weather this crisis. Unless we take decisive action now, the pandemic will not only threaten the health of millions of Americans, but it will cause devastating material hardship and exacerbate existing racial and economic inequalities.

  On children, youth, and families who are likely to be most affected during this crisis, and what we should be doing to support them, see our one-pager: COVID-19: Our Response Must Protect the Health and Well-Being of All Children, Youth, and Families.  

Our response to this crisis will take the measure of who we are as a nation. Will we support the children, youth, and families who are likely to suffer most in this pandemic—low-paid workers and their families, youth experiencing homelessness, children and families involved in the child welfare system, immigrant families, and others? Or will we exacerbate current inequities and create even greater and insurmountable hurdles for our families to overcome in the years ahead?

We are less prepared to confront this pandemic because over the past three years the Trump administration has systematically undermined the very supports that families need when experiencing public health emergencies and economic downturns. Notably, it has reduced access to health insurance and food assistance through attacks on Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and the  Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is also one of our most effective countercyclical tools, directly supporting families with low incomes.

We must take immediate action to protect the health and well-being of all families. The legislative package that passed the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday, and which the Senate is expected to pass today, is an important first step. It increases funding for health insurance and food assistance, suspends time limits for SNAP, and creates emergency paid sick and family leave for millions of American workers.

But we must do much more to support those who are likely to be hurt most by the current crisis. We must increase funding for states and cities that have become the front line of response to this crisis and take measures to put money directly in the hands of the consumers who need it most—families with low incomes. We must systematically evaluate how our public systems have organized to support families in this crisis, and ensure that families involved in child welfare, experiencing homelessness, and living in institutional settings, including jails and prisons, are protected. As we deal with the immediacy of today’s emergency, we must also redouble efforts to enact long-term reforms to our system of public benefits so that it can automatically respond to families’ needs in the event of future public health emergencies and economic downturns.

About CSSP. The Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) works to achieve a racially, economically, and socially just society in which all children, youth, and families thrive. We translate ideas into action, promote public policies grounded in equity, and support strong and inclusive communities. We advocate with and for all children, youth, and families marginalized by public policies and institutional practices. Learn more at