Transition Plan for a Leading Nation
The COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has ended more than 200,000 lives and upended countless others. The impact on our 73 million children is grave. School closures have severed more than three-quarters of students from vital educational and health resources — which could widen educational disparities, decrease earning potential, and exacerbate mental health problems. Children have become disconnected from health insurance, crucial nutrition programs, and other social supports. For children of color — now a majority of American children — these effects are all the more devastating. Black, Latinx, American Indian and Alaska Native populations have contracted and died of COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.
Develop and fund a national strategy to implement the public health measures we know can stop the spread of COVID-19 in communities. This includes accessible testing, contact tracing, use of cloth face coverings, and physical distancing.
Provide schools the funding needed to re-open safely. Children learn best in-person, but they also receive other crucial supports in schools such as school meals and mental health supports. Returning to school is important for the healthy development and well-being of children, but it must be done safely. Reopening schools in a way that maximizes safety, learning, and the well-being of children, teachers, and staff requires substantial new investments in our schools and campuses.
Allocate direct funding for pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health and Human Services (HHS) should direct CARES Act Provider Relief Fund resources to pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists, and pediatric surgical specialists, regardless of Medicaid participation and payer mix, without cumbersome reporting requirements, to ensure children have timely access to needed care.
Fund services for children most vulnerable to COVID-19. Services provided to children in response to the COVID-19 crisis should prioritize youth of color, children with disabilities, justice-involved youth, those in the child welfare system, low-income youth, and children in immigrant families.
Ensure fiscal relief is available to all families. The administration should ensure that immigrant families are eligible for past and future economic impact payments.
Provide flexibility in federal nutrition programs. The administration should utilize waiver authority in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), school meals, and summer feeding programs to ensure the programs are responsive to the current challenges facing program operators and the families that rely on these programs for nutrition assistance.
Provide waivers and flexibility in Department of Education programs to meets the needs of students and schools. The administration should use waiver authority for Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Part B and Part C to allow states and schools to better deliver needed services for infants and children who qualify for IDEA. The Department should also continue to allow flexibility for funds to be used to provide needed technology and facility upgrades to allow students to return to schools in safe environments.
Protecting families from the effects of loss of income. The administration should address the loss of income due to unemployment or other factors as a result of the pandemic. In particular, families should not face the prospect of eviction during the public health emergency and need rental income support to maintain housing security.
American Academy of Pediatrics