Image by René Bittner from Pixabay

Despite the important temporary relief provided to many families by the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided $1,200 to qualifying adults and $500 to their dependent children, millions of American families are experiencing financial hardship as we enter the new year. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Household Pulse Survey reveal that as of December 2020, U.S. households with children continued to face serious financial challenges in meeting basic needs:

  • 55.7% of families have experienced a reduction in household employment income since March 13, 2020.
  • 23.1% of households with children describe paying for household expenses as “very difficult” and an additional 22.3% report that it is “somewhat difficult.”
  • In surveys conducted between December 9 and December 21, slightly more than half of U.S. households with children reported food insufficiency in the previous 7 days—a 12 percentage point rise relative to pre-pandemic times. Of these more than 40 million families, 34.6% said that their children sometimes or often did not eat enough because food was unaffordable.
  • 11.6% of Americans disclosed that they were late on mortgage payments—a figure more than double that of households without children. The situation is even worse for families who rent: 24.5% reported making late rental payments and 19.4% indicated they had no confidence that they would be able to pay next month’s rent. Of those behind on housing payments, more than 52% of renters and nearly 19% of homeowners indicated that it was somewhat or very likely that they would be evicted or experience foreclosure in the next two months.

In an earlier report, CCF noted how the chronic household stress associated with such economic scarcity and insecurity has been shown to pose long-term risks to children, including deficits in cognitive and behavioral functioning and mental and physical health that extend well into adulthood. It is clear that the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021, which authorized $600 payments to eligible adults and each of their qualifying children, will fall far short of improving the economic condition of families as COVID-19 cases continue to surge and job losses continue to hit mothers hard. Although both stimulus packages have provided much-needed relief, American families need more support.

Lawrence Stacey is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Sociology, The Ohio State University, and can be contacted at Kristi Williams, Ph.D., is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University, and President of the Board of Directors of the Council on Contemporary Families. She can be reached at