Income Loss, Unemployment, and Loss of Childcare: The Military Family in Pandemic America

Covid-19 impact on military families

Military families are feeling the negative effects of the pandemic.

New research released today by the National Military Family Association (NMFA) highlights the ways in which military families have been overstressed, particularly when it comes to child care, employment, and income.

To understand the impact of the pandemic, NMFA surveyed over 4,000 military families between April 2020 and December 2020. The story they told was grim:

  • 49%  reported that their access to child care was reduced or lost entirely
  • 34% of military spouses reported that they lost their job
  • 25% of military spouses reported that, while their job was not lost, their hours were reduced
  • 49% of military spouses reported loss of personal income during the pandemic
  • 53% said their family as a whole experienced a decrease in income

Enlisted families and military families of color are among the hardest hit.

  • 45% of enlisted respondents who identified as military families of color have experienced a decrease in family income
  • 47% of enlisted respondents who identified as military families of color have had to cut back hours or are no longer working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic

For military families, these numbers are no surprise. Read the full report here. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused pain across all sectors of society, but military families were experiencing unique challenges before the pandemic even started. In 2019, military families were already dealing with food insecurity, an unemployment rate of 24% for military spouses in a two-income world, a military-mandated move cycle that uproots families every two-to-three years, deployments, and the long-term toll of war.

For an all-volunteer force, those numbers have real consequences. At NMFA, we know that serving and supporting our military families makes our country stronger.

When families came to NMFA saying they couldn’t afford the child care they needed to get to work or school, we responded with an emergency fee relief program. When they told us they were trying to stretch paychecks farther and were struggling to put food on the table more than ever, we rallied Congress once again to pass a Basic Needs Allowance for military families.

But it didn’t pass — and a child care crisis can’t be solved by a non-profit trying to help cover the bills.

Military families need more support than this.