New study identifies gaps in the federal safety net support for parents of young children during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jun 15, 2023

The United States responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by expanding a variety of social safety net programs. Policy responses across the U.S. included workplace protections, workers compensation, and a provision of childcare for essential workers. However, families' experiences with the pandemic-related changes to safety net programs are still not well explored. University of California researchers conducted a study to understand take up, utilization, and experiences with social safety net programs among families with young children in California during COVID-19. Thirty four California parents and caregivers of young children were interviewed from August 2020 to April 2021. Interviewees reported experiencing some benefits of increased safety net support early in the pandemic, including improved food security and counseling support for those studying at community colleges. But generally, parents reported being overwhelmed and stressed and that insufficient childcare and housing instability were not addressed by the social safety net system. Study findings suggest that policy responses carry potential to alleviate economic-related stressors, like food insecurity and also highlight a critical need to strengthen support for families. This study was conducted by the Assessing California Communities' Experiences with Safety Net Supports Survey (ACCESS) study team, including: Alyssa Mooney, Kaitlyn Jackson, Rita Hamad, and Mekhala Hoskote from the UC San Francisco, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, Lia C.H. Fernald from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health and Wendi Gosliner from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nutrition Policy Institute. This research was published in BioMed Central Public Health and supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

By Katherine Lanca
Author - Graduate Student
By Danielle L. Lee
Editor - Director of Communications & Research Engagement
By Wendi Gosliner
Editor - Project scientist