New survey: pandemic squeezed military families
The pace of deployment during the pandemic has strained military families, according to a new survey by Blue Star Families.
The last couple of years have been challenging for nearly everyone, but military families have their own lingering difficulties which often go unnoticed by the rest of the community, said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families. The group advocates for military families, and said the Guard and reserves have been stretched thin.
“They've gone to help with clean up for COVID or helping to build hospitals,” Roth-Douqyuet said. “They've gone to the southern border, we even have the Guard substitute teaching school in New Mexico because COVID — it has closed down too many schools. You got wildfires. The Guard is more deployed ... since World War II and many of the many American citizens just don't know that.”
Each year the group surveys military families. The fallout from deployments were the top two concerns among the Guard and the reserves, with 41% saying their biggest concern was the amount of time they spent away from family and 34% concerned about the impact of deployment on their families.
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The pandemic increased the economic stress on active duty families — 43% of families were concerned about finding work for their spouses. The problem is especially difficult if families change bases or need to find child care, Roth-Douque said.
“We need to solve the child care issues,” Roth-Douquet said. “You go to the bottom of the waiting list every time you move. You've got a nine month waiting list and then you're in town for six more months, and then you move again. You're at the bottom of that nine month waiting list every time you move and that's no good, we need better ways to help people around that problem.”
One idea would be to hold spaces at child care centers for military families, so the slots would be available when new families arrive, Roth-Douquet said.
Overall, the expense of moving from base to another has increased the stress on families over the last two years, she said.
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“The financial trends have gotten much worse and a lot of that is because of COVID,” Roth-Douquet said. “COVID has been a real financial harm for military families. That and the fact that inflation and housing is going up, so when you're forced to move as you are with the military into higher and higher place areas where there may not be housing stock because we stopped building houses during the pandemic, we have military families living in our RV’s and pop up trailers.”
Aside from economic issues, the 8,004 military families and veterans said the communities where they live are supportive of military families, but their neighbors often do not understand the issues they face.