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Securing Atlanta's Future Thought Leadership

No Family Left Behind: In the Wake of the Coronavirus

Blythe Keeler Robinson

President and CEO, Sheltering Arms

As destabilizing as the virus is for many people, it is devastating for underserved families with little or no savings. Hourly wages are halted, and there are very few resources to continue meals for the children and utilities for the household in times of crisis. 

At Sheltering Arms, 90% of our families receive financial assistance to attend our program. Many of them live at or below the poverty level, working hourly and low-wage jobs, living paycheck to paycheck and having to make tough decisions for their household. 

Child care centers and schools have closed, following the guidance of Governor Kemp, to incorporate social distancing and reduce the risk of exposure to the virus; but it creates a ripple effect. When there is no available child care, parents can’t work. No work means no pay. No pay means the inability to pay rent, provide groceries or take care of health needs.  

Here’s something to think about: In Sheltering Arms centers, our children receive a nutritious breakfast, lunch and snack each day, and our youngest learners have access to diapers, wipes and formula. For one month, that’s 40 meals, 20 snacks and about 120 diapers for every child. Taking everything into consideration, that’s about $500 per child. These are huge costs for families. 

Thankfully, we are seeing the community come together for good:  Georgia Power, Atlanta Gas Light and local city government are temporarily suspending disconnections; school districts, organizations and local community sites are providing ready-to-eat meals; and local volunteers are creating mini food drives. Sheltering Arms’ Family Support Coaches are continuing to work with our families and connect them to resources to help them stabilize through this very difficult time.

For the city’s most vulnerable families, they will need support well long after this is over. The House just passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, a bill that will provide families with critically important resources, such as: strengthened food security initiatives, free coronavirus testing, and paid emergency leave. We hope the Senate will follow suit. Contact your Senators today about passing this legislation.

This is a start. We can’t be the city that leaves our families behind. 

For the latest developments regarding Coronavirus, please visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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