September 20, 2021
The new data out from US Census Bureau last week tell a twofold story about poverty in 2020. First, median income and wages were down over the year, resulting in an increase in the number of individuals and households with incomes below the official poverty measure. Second, federal policies, especially the stimulus payments and unemployment insurance benefits, lifted millions above the poverty line and resulted in a decrease in the number of individuals and households defined as poor according to the supplemental poverty measure, which accounts for government taxes and transfers. In other words, federal policies have ensured millions of Americans can provide for their families’ basic needs. Yet without sustained supports, these same Americans and many more may lose the safety net supports that are necessary for the promotion of an equitable economic recovery for their families and the country.
This news was in line with CCC’s expectations but given that New York City has consistently reported higher unemployment and job losses than the rest of the nation, last week’s Census data release might obscure what’s happening locally.
“The new Census data show us what an enormous impact it makes when government commits to funding safety net services. But when we translate these numbers into what they mean for families nationally, and especially in New York City, they tell us we are not yet on a strong path to an equitable recovery. Too many families still face economic, housing and food insecurity, or may struggle to access other basic needs, such as health and behavioral health care,” said CCC’s Executive Director, Jennifer March. “It is critical that at this time when we see policies working exactly as they were designed to, we strengthen and sustain programs for long term success, not just for the upcoming months. It is essential for New York City’s children and families and those across the nation that the most comprehensive versions of the federal infrastructure bill and budget resolutions pass and that transformative relief made possible through stimulus is not simply extended but made permanent. The combination of a permanent child allowance, expanded earned income tax credit, a dramatic expansion of child care and Pre-K supports, paid family and medical leave, and many other supports are needed to eradicate poverty and promote an equitable recovery.”