Federal pandemic aid lifted millions of Americans out of poverty last year, despite dire economic conditions due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the official federal poverty rate increased slightly in 2020 from the previous year. But the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which paints a more accurate picture of economic conditions by accounting for the effect of public benefit programs, showed that poverty fell by nearly three percentage points last year. That’s largely because of federal aid such as stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits that supported families during the depths of the pandemic.
A new brief by LBP policy director Stacey Roussel analyzes key findings of the data.
“Federal safety-net programs lift millions of families out of poverty every year, and they played a vital role in helping families through the unprecedented hardship of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Roussel said. “These programs were always critically important, but the pandemic put a new spotlight on them. It’s scary to imagine how hard the last year would’ve been without them.”
The need for aid remains critical, as Louisiana families have suffered through natural disasters in addition to the pandemic. The economic recovery legislation being developed on Capitol Hill must address the weaknesses in our economy laid bare by the pandemic.
“Job and wage loss would have driven millions into poverty last year, but robust government aid actually lowered poverty during the pandemic,” Roussel said. “But Louisiana can’t breathe a sigh of relief when Covid variants continue to disrupt the state’s economy and 14% of children don’t have enough to eat.”
Click here to read LBP’s analysis of the Census data.