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New data: child poverty rates in Virginia are ticking up

New Census numbers are raising alarm bells about child poverty in Virginia.

When the pandemic struck, social service programs were extended to more low-income people. There was the child tax credit and stimulus payments, and those moves cut child poverty in Virginia in half.

Now, the latest round of Census numbers shows that child poverty has doubled nationwide, and Megan Davis at the Commonwealth Institute says that's evidence these programs worked in Virginia.

"I think that this is policy evidence that we can imagine futures for ourselves where we lower poverty and have proven policies that do that," Davis says. "That expanding our child tax credits work, and that we can recreate these things on the state level as well."

One example is the number of people in Virginia who don't have health insurance. That number was cut in half after Medicaid expanded eligibility. But, Freddy Mejia at the Commonwealth Institute says advocates are now worried because since April, 145,000 Virginians have lost health insurance.

"Similarly to what we’re seeing with child poverty on the national level, once those protections and those benefits go away, we are going to see some people left in the gap and we are unfortunately expecting folks to go uninsured," Mejia says.

Advocates are worried that the next round of data will show child poverty numbers in Virginia ticking back up now that pandemic-era stimulus programs have ended.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.