News Release

Pandemic Poverty and Government Policies

The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak economic havoc, while other global crises threaten to continue driving up inflation in the United States. Yet Julia Raifman––a Boston University assistant professor who tracks states’ policies relevant to Covid-19 and the economy––writes that we are “largely out of policies” that provide economic support to families. The Urban Institute notes that “economic supports for families have fallen to their lowest point since before March 2020.” 

SHAWN FREMSTAD, fremstad@cepr.net, @ShawnFremstad
    Fremstad is a Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, with expertise in inequality, poverty, family policy, and Social Security and assistance programs. 

Fremstad told the Institute for Public Accuracy today: “Today’s high inflation is being driven by excessively powerful corporations. Until recently, strong employment gains and support from temporary policies like the expanded Child Tax Credit shielded the diverse working class from harm. But it is now clear that corporate greed is hitting the working class head on. According to the Census Bureau, just over one in three adults (about 34 percent) now report difficulty paying for the usual household expenses, the highest level we’ve seen since early 2021. Food insecurity has also returned to its highest level (11.2 percent) since early 2021. Congress and the Biden administration need to take action to rein in corporate power, increase working class power, and establish universal social insurance programs like child care assistance and child allowances.”

Research shows that the child tax credit helped millions get enough to eat. In 2021, the American Rescue Plan expanded the policy, making the credit monthly and expanding it to the lowest-income households. Yet the policy ended in December 2021, when Congress failed to renew the program. This month, The New Republic reported that without the provision that allowed lowest-income households to qualify for the benefit, “a third of children––including half of Black and Latino children and 70 percent of children raised by single mothers––did not receive the full credit.” NPR reports that in December 2021, when the last payment was made, 3.7 million children were kept out of poverty, but in January 2022, 3.7 million children fell into poverty. 

Research from the Urban Institute has shown that a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit would:

  • Reduce child poverty by more than 40 percent in a typical year;
  • Reduce child poverty by at least 30 percent in every state and 50 percent in 11 states;
  • Help children of all demographic groups;
  • Reduce child poverty for Black children by more than 50 percent.