The United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania (UWSWPA), the POISE Foundation and Allies for Children continue to capture the most up to date trends in the Community PulseReport. Throughout June’s Community Pulse Report, it is clear that our region is recovering from the pandemic’s hardships. However, significant work remains to ensure the region, including our black community, has the necessary support to return to an improved normal. This month, the Community Pulse Report shows that the average rate of fully vaccinated individuals continues to rise to over 50%, unemployment remains above pre-pandemic levels and summer meals and programming are beginning to ramp up for kids.
Unfortunately, as eligible vaccine recipients continue to expand to children 12 and older, vaccine disparities persist. In addition to racial disparities, June’s report highlights trends related to vaccine hesitancy in terms of occupation and political affiliation. Hesitancy may be due to deeper systematic disparities, like access to health care providers for additional medical advice, and transportation barriers.
While vaccinations are on the rise, the number of individuals utilizing Unemployment Compensation (UC) throughout the five-county region is well below its peak in 2020, but remains above pre-pandemic levels. Statewide UC claims continue to show disparities in unemployment for black residents in the region. In addition to employment, housing and meal assistance are a clear need within the community. Federal efforts including expanding Pandemic-EBT and additional SNAP benefits have helped, but there is still a great demand for summer meals to help address these basic needs.
We are happy to report that summer meal sites and programming are now open for students, with a mix of in-person and virtual. Staffing for meal distribution sites and summer programs remains a key challenge. Providers are working to navigate workforce barriers to ensure the needs of children are met this summer. These programs, which cover nutrition and learning gaps occurring in the summer months, are crucial for children in our region.