Story at a glance
- The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating effects on both the world and country’s economy.
- The Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey shows the number of poor Americans grew by 6 million people over the last three months, according to a recent study.
- A second study shows that while the CARES Act has helped some Americans survive the month, it isn't enough to lift them out of deep poverty.
As talks of a second stimulus package drag on between Congress and the White House, millions more Americans have been thrust into poverty.
Poverty rates have grown from 9.4 percent in April through June to 10.8 percent in August and September, according to data from the Census Bureau’s monthly Current Population Survey, translating into at least 6 million more Americans in poverty.
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The CARES Act offered some hope, according to two recent studies, helping many Americans escape from monthly poverty based on families' monthly resources before and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the stimulus checks and unemployment benefits lifted more than 18 million individuals out of monthly poverty in April, according to a study by Columbia University, 12 million fell back into poverty when the $600 weekly checks stopped coming in September.
“In this time of crisis, it is important for policymakers to respond as quickly as possible to address the needs of those hit hardest by the pandemic,” said the authors of a joint study by the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. “Our results show that for low-income individuals and families, the government response to the pandemic more than offset the sharp decline in earnings early on in the pandemic. However, these gains appear to have faded as some of the benefits expire. It is important that we continue to track poverty in real time to determine what additional support is called for as this pandemic persists.”
Black and Hispanic Americans, who have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, faced higher rates of monthly poverty than white Americans even before the pandemic, and the Columbia study showed they have seen particularly steep increases in monthly poverty rates. Children also face an elevated risk of poverty in the crisis, said the study's authors.
While the CARES Act managed to keep some families out of poverty for a few months, the Columbia study concluded that assistance did not prevent a rise in deep poverty, which is defined as having monthly income lower than half the monthly poverty threshold.
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