Millions more Americans will be thrown into poverty if Congress fails to enact three policies meant to help families get through economic hardships related to the pandemic, according to a new study by the Urban Institute.
The report finds that the poverty rate for the last five months of 2020 will rise to 11.9% if expanded unemployment-insurance benefits, a second round of stimulus checks, and increased SNAP allotments are not approved, a significant increase over the projected annual rate of 8.9%. Those three measures are contained in the HEROES Act that was passed by the House in May but has yet to clear the Senate.
The study anticipates what happens when families have spent their one-time stimulus payments and the $600 weekly payments expire, as they are set to at the end of July. If legislation is passed that contains the three policies, about 12.2 million Americans would be kept out of poverty, the authors found. “Many families are looking at continued hardship as the initial effects of our stimulus and support passed in the early spring start to dissipate,” said Gregory Acs, vice president for income and benefits policy at the Urban Institute and one of the study’s authors. “Without continued support, families are looking at relatively high levels of deprivation in the second half of the year.”
The grim assessment of U.S. poverty, published Friday, comes as lawmakers debate how to extend benefits that individuals and families have relied on to replace wages lost during the pandemic. Republicans on Monday announced a $1 trillion plan that would slash the weekly supplement but provide a second round of direct payments to individuals and families. Democrats have said the plan doesn’t go far enough.
The projected surge in poverty in the last five months of 2020 is the result of several factors, the study states. The annual rate includes the months before the economic impact of the pandemic, when conditions were better on the whole. And both the $600 weekly payments and the one-time stimulus payment have kept many families above the annual poverty threshold, researchers said.