Poverty level increases amid pandemic, researchers point to state shutdowns, Washington gridlock

One of the researchers, Notre Dame professor James X. Sullivan, said "more support from the federal government" is needed.

Published: December 16, 2020 10:08am

Updated: December 16, 2020 10:30am

Nearly 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty over the past five months, another indication of how state-imposed shutdowns to control the coronavirus have hurt the U.S. economy and its workers, according to a data released Wednesday. 

The data is from researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.

The researchers pointed to two reasons for the increase: millions of people cannot find jobs during the pandemic, and government aid for the unemployed has declined sharply since the summer, according to The Washington Post.

“There are two ways to counteract this upward trend in poverty: one is a dramatic improvement in the labor market. The other is more support from the federal government, Notre Dame professor James X. Sullivan said. “Given the state of the virus, I wouldn't bet on significant improvement in the labor market in the short run.” 

The poverty rate was 11.7 percent in November, compared to 9.3 since June, according to the data. 

Though the increase is the biggest in a single year since the government started tracking poverty 60 years ago, the country’s overall poverty levels remain at record lows.

The average unemployment payment was more than $900 a week from late March through July, but it dropped to  about $300 a week in August, The Post also reports. 

Congress has for months tried to pass a measure that would provide additional economice relief to Americans amid the roughly 9-month-long pandemic, but remains at a partisan impasse. 

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