Poverty fell by one measure in 2020, because of significant sums of government assistance implemented in response to the coronavirus epidemic, such as stimulus checks and increased jobless benefits.
U.S. Census Bureau said the so-called supplementary poverty rate, including government aid to low-income people, fell to 9.1 percent in 2020 from 11.8 percent the previous year.
It’s the lowest level since the data was first released in 2009. In 2020, a family of four would be considered poor if their income was less than $26,496.
Census Bureau added that the official poverty rate, which does not include any government assistance, rose slightly to 11.4 percent in 2020 from a historic low of 10.5 percent in 2019.
Nonetheless, the decrease in the supplementary rate indicates that government assistance provided during the coronavirus epidemic and subsequent economic downturn – the worst since the Great Depression – helped millions of Americans escape poverty last year.
Programs That Helped Lift Americans Out of Poverty
According to the Census Bureau, a handful major programs had the biggest effect on the supplementary poverty rate last year.
Census Bureau said the first two economic impact payments, which included $1,200 stimulus check to millions of Americans last year, lifted 11.7 million individuals out of poverty.
Unemployment benefits were expanded, including programs that had just expired, to keep 5.5 million people out of poverty.
Refundable tax credits helped 5.3 million individuals stay out of poverty last year, while the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and free school lunch also helped millions of people living in poverty.
More assistance for poor and middle-income Americans may be on the way. Democrats in Congress are working on the specifics of a $3.5 trillion plan that, if approved, would be the biggest substantial investment in extending the social safety net in a generation.