- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A National Public Radio poll released Tuesday finds that “Americans have fallen way behind” in all quality of life indicators, deepening their financial and health crises a year-and-a-half into the pandemic.

Despite billions of dollars in government aid and aggressive vaccination mandates from the Biden administration, the NPR poll of 3,616 U.S. adults from Aug. 2 to Sept. 2 found that the delta variant of the coronavirus has plunged Americans deeper into depression, sleeplessness and stress.

“The rent’s overdue and evictions are looming. Two-thirds of parents say their kids have fallen behind in school. And one in five households say someone in the home has been unable to get medical care for a serious condition,” reads the written report for NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Robert Blandon, the Harvard health policy researcher who conducted the study, told NPR host Selena Simmons-Duffin that “this poll was geared for the period after COVID was over, America was opening up, going back.”

Instead, the poll results show that problems have gotten worse since Mr. Blandon conducted a similar poll for NPR a year ago.

“Even though many experts predicted the COVID-19 outbreak would already be subsiding, the delta variant is continuing to cause problems in the lives of most households across the nation, including severe financial and health impacts on a share of households who are in crisis,” the report states in the executive summary.

Overall, 38% of households across the nation reported facing serious financial problems in the past few months. 
Low and middle-income households suffered the most, as 59% of those with annual incomes below $50,000 reported serious financial problems in the past few months, compared to 18% of households with annual incomes of $50,000 or more saying the same.  

The serious financial problems occurred despite 67% of households reporting that they had received federal assistance from the government, according to the study.

With virtual learning continuing in many places, 70% of households whose children fell behind last school year said it would be difficult for them to catch up in the new academic term.

Overall, 69% of households with children in K-12 last year said their children fell behind in learning because of the COVID-19 outbreak, including 36% of all households with children in K-12 schools saying they fell behind “a lot.”

At least 1 in 5 of all households reported struggling to pay rent, struggling to find child care and having problems with home internet connection for work and their children’s studies.

Most households reported having health care coverage and many reported using telehealth services, but 50% said someone at home had experienced serious problems with depression, anxiety, stress or sleep in the last few months.

Some survey participants also reported fearing racially motivated attacks, and 24% said their job situation was worse than it was a year ago.

The probability-based, address-based, nationally representative poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health was conducted by landline, mobile phone and online. It had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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