Chattanooga Times Free Press
8 million in U. S. have slipped into poverty since May
WASHINGTON — After an ambitious expansion of the safety net in the spring saved millions of people from poverty, the aid is now largely exhausted, and poverty has returned to levels higher than before the coronavirus crisis, two new studies have found.
The number of poor people has grown by 8 million since May, according to researchers at Columbia University, after falling by 4 million at the pandemic’s start as a result of a $2 trillion emergency package known as the CARES Act.
Using a different definition of poverty, researchers from the University of Chicago and Notre Dame found that poverty has grown by 6 million people in the past three months, with circumstances worsening most for Black people and children.
Significantly, the studies differ on the most recent month: While the Columbia model shows an improvement in September, the Chicago and Notre Dame analysts found poverty continued to grow.
“These numbers are very concerning,” said Bruce D. Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago and an author of the study. “They tell us people are having a lot more trouble paying their bills, paying their rent, putting food on the table.”
The recent rise in poverty has occurred despite an improving job market, an indication that the economy has been rebounding too slowly to offset the lost benefits. The Democratic House has twice passed multitrillion-dollar packages to provide more help and to stimulate the economy, but members of a divided Republican Senate, questioning the cost and necessity, have proposed smaller plans. President Donald Trump has alternately demanded that Congress “go big” before the elections and canceled negotiations.
The CARES Act included onetime payments for most households — $1,200 per adult and $500 per child — and a huge expansion of unemployment insurance.
The aid expansion did not reach everyone. About a third of the unemployed still do not receive unemployment checks, the Columbia analysts estimated. Some jobless people are unaware they can apply, and many encounter red tape. Workers in the country illegally are disqualified from unemployment aid, and no one in their households can get stimulus checks, including spouses and millions of American children.
By the government’s fullest measure, a family of four in a typical city is considered poor if its annual income falls below $28,170.