The sixth annual State of the Commonwealth Report, produced by Old Dominion University's Dragas Center for Economic Analysis & Policy, is easily the most sobering report that its research team has compiled.

"Although our devotion to this work remains steadfast, our enthusiasm, admittedly, has been dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the toll it has taken on the commonwealth and nation," said Robert M. McNab, professor of economics and director of the Dragas Center.

What the report - to be released online on Dec. 20 - seeks to do is inform about the difficult road ahead for the commonwealth, and the nature of the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic over the coming years.

Even with COVID-19 vaccines on the horizon, Virginia will be forced to wrestle with the existing fractures in the commonwealth, which the pandemic has thrown into sharp relief.

"The rural-urban divide has only become more pronounced in 2020. The impact of COVID-19 was felt far more dramatically by African Americans in Virginia, who were more likely to be infected, unemployed and exhibit symptoms of anxiety or depression," McNab said.

"In time, we will see that income inequality has increased as well. We must have frank conversations about where we are and where we want to go, and our work seeks to contribute to this discussion."

Authors hope the 2020 State of the Commonwealth Report encourages policymakers and thought leaders to engage in difficult conversations to help all Virginians in the coming years. Topics include:

COVID-19 and the Commonwealth

In January 2020, Virginians were focused on the continuing economic expansion and shortages of skilled labor in many areas of the state. As 2020 draws to a close, we face the prospect of a hard winter and a slow recovery from the pandemic. The opening chapter of the State of the Commonwealth Report examines the impact of COVID-19 on Virginia, particularly how the pandemic has disproportionately had a negative impact on African Americans.

The Way We Were: 2010-2019

COVID-19's unprecedented impact on Virginia makes the challenges of the previous decade seem practically trivial in comparison. However, these challenges hold valuable lessons for Virginia's current economic environment and how to build a better economy in this decade.

Feeding Virginia

In 2018, one in 10 adult Virginians did not know with certainty how they would obtain their next meal. This food insecurity affects an even greater proportion of children in the state. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, food insecurity has increased. The State of the Commonwealth Report explores how public programs and regional food banks work to alleviate food insecurity in Virginia.

Youth Mental Health in Virginia

Over the past decade, an increasing number of young people report they are anxious or depressed. The pandemic has necessitated closing schools, curtailing extracurricular activities and limiting social contacts. The report asks how young Virginians are faring in the COVID-19 pandemic and what can be done to assist.

Virginia's Opioid Epidemic Continues and COVID-19 May Be Making It Worse

In 2017, the State of the Commonwealth Report explored the rising toll of the opioid epidemic in Virginia and the United States. While COVID-19 has garnered much of the attention in 2020, the opioid epidemic continues. This year's report revisits the evidence to ask whether the pandemic and social distancing measures have affected opioid abuse in the state.

For more information, please see the Dragas Center WEBSITE

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