Economics In Brief: How The Pandemic Safety Net Slashed Child Poverty

Also, a look at medical debts and poverty.

(Photo by Picsea / Unsplash)

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Child Poverty Is On The Decline, Thanks to Safety Net Programs

Turns out the influx of federal and local spending to aid families during the pandemic was exactly what was needed to combat the stagnating rate of child poverty. Vox reports that policies such as the expanded child care tax credit, two rounds of stimulus checks and, possibly, eviction moratoriums drastically decreased the percentage of children in poverty.

Reconfiguring and bolstering safety net programs was key to staving off what could have been a sharp increase in child poverty. An analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that, without the pandemic response, child poverty in 2020 would have seen the second-largest increase to be recorded in U.S. history. This tracks with U.S. Census Bureau figures, which documents that the combination of stimulus payments lifted about 3 million children out of poverty.

14 States Receive Grants To Tackle Subminimum Wage

When the minimum wage was first introduced in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, it excluded several key groups of workers, including those working in domestic labor and farmworkers (predominantly people of color) as well as individuals with disabilities. The exclusion, as Teen Vogue explains, was built into the legislation as a compromise to pass bipartisan gridlock.

The legislation allows employees to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage, even for the same work. It’s why many workers with disabilities are increasingly an integral part of the so-called “Fight for $15,” Teen Vogue notes.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education announced that it awarded $177 million across 14 different states through 14 unique “vocational rehabilitation” programs. The Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment grant funds will be used to develop business models and practices that would allow individuals with disabilities to become more competitive candidates for work – and receive livable wage increases.

Medical Debt Remains Pervasive, Even Among America’s Insured

New research published in the journal JAMA Network Open found that one in five American households has medical debt, even amongst the privately insured. The analysis found that from 2016-2019, around 10.8% of adults carried medical debt, including 10.5% of the privately insured and 9.6% of people living in Medicaid expansion states.

The study found significant factors for medical debt include decreases in health status and loss of coverage. In many cases, these factors also influenced individuals’ ability to obtain housing and food, sometimes by 1.7-fold to 3.1-fold.

NBC News reports that, while the new study found that those without insurance still ran the greatest risk of being in medical debt, the results would differ ​​in other similarly wealthy countries. “The kinds of things we saw in our study are virtually nonexistent in most other wealthy nations,” lead author David Himmelstein said.

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Marielle Argueza is Next City’s Equitable Cities Reporting Fellow for Racial Justice Narratives in partnership with Triad City Beat in Greensboro, North Carolina. Formerly Next City's INN/Columbia Journalism School intern for Summer-Fall 2022, she’s a journalist with more than a decade of experience reporting on education, immigration, labor, criminal justice, climate and more. Her work in K-12 education is award-winning and she was recognized multiple times by the California News Publishers Association. She is a recent graduate of Columbia Journalism School, where she was Toni Stabile Investigative Fellow. Her work includes a story on Harlem’s last assisted-living facility for people living with HIV/AIDS; a profile on New York State’s first Farmers Union; and a database of deaths within the Milwaukee County Jail. She is also a recipient of other fellowships and scholarships from several notable organizations within the news industry including the Asian American Journalists Association, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, ProPublica, and the Journalism and Women Symposium.

Tags: povertyyouthlaborchildrendisability justice

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