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Wyoming Families, Children Struggle With Health, Economic Security

Melodie Edwards

The pandemic has worsened food, health and housing insecurity across the country and in Wyoming. A new study shows that for many families in the state, these issues are front and center.The new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation examines the health and economic impacts the pandemic has had on families with children.

In Wyoming, 11% of respondents said they sometimes, or often, don't have enough to eat, while 15% are worried about making rent next month, and 14% reported having no health insurance.

The pandemic is also taking its toll on mental health - 20% said they feel down, depressed or hopeless. That figure is about average for the United States in general.

Samin Dadelahi with the Wyoming Community Foundation said the federal CARES Act has served as a buffer, protecting the state from even worse hardship.

"We're actually doing a little bit better than some in some areas and I think part of that is the funds that we receive from the federal government," she said. "When you look at that amount of money on a per capita basis, we actually received a pretty significant portion to help alleviate a lot of what's going on."

But Dadelahi added Wyoming might start to feel the hurt more acutely, as the state budget shortfall looms, and new federal stimulus bills look smaller and less certain.

"We know that the $1.2 billion deficit is just the start of things, that this is just going to be continued decline in the coming years," she said. "And once those CARES Act dollars have been distributed and we're not seeing the buffering effect of a federal stimulus package any longer, there are going to be some real concerns about what's happening in our state."

Dadelahi said the only way Wyoming can continue to support its families is by raising state revenues. But that's something state legislators consistently resist.

Jeff is a part-time reporter for Wyoming Public Media, as well as the owner and editor of the Laramie Reporter, a free online news source providing in-depth and investigative coverage of local events and trends.
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