by Christy Bieber | Published on Sept. 16, 2021
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Stimulus checks had a huge impact.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused economic havoc throughout the United States, but despite the lockdowns and record high unemployment rates, most Americans avoided dire financial consequences. And that was largely thanks to the help that came from coronavirus relief legislation.
In fact, recent data from the Census Bureau shows 53 million reasons why stimulus checks and other government benefits paid off.
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According to a recent Census Bureau report, government aid in 2020 kept a whopping 53 million families from poverty. This is a dramatic increase from the 35 million people kept out of poverty in 2019. The millions kept out of poverty prove that the actions lawmakers took worked.
If lawmakers hadn't passed legislation to provide benefits -- including depositing stimulus checks into people's bank accounts -- there would have been a major increase in poverty rates last year. The Census data shows there would have been a 2.8 percentage point increase in the number of people living in poverty, which would have left millions more struggling with an income too low to support their basic needs
Instead, thanks to the help that lawmakers offered, there was a 2.6 percentage point decline in the number of people living in poverty once government assistance was factored in. This may not seem like a lot, but it means that 8.5 million fewer people had an annual family income insufficient to cover the essentials.
Stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, and enhanced nutritional aid all worked together to help keep millions of people above the poverty level. Specifically, the direct payments provided by stimulus checks were single-handedly responsible for keeping close to 12 million people above the poverty level last year. Another 5.5 million people were kept above the poverty level due to expanded unemployment benefits, while 3.2 million people benefitted from monthly nutrition assistance that kept their income above the poverty threshold.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities made clear that "poverty would have been far worse without the unprecedented relief," but unfortunately CBPP also went on to point out that many of these sources of relief have now come to an end.
While a $1,400 stimulus check was authorized in March of 2021, American families have received only one direct payment this year and another is unlikely. Expanded unemployment benefits have also recently come to an end, leaving many people without this added income -- even though they may not yet have been able to return to the workforce.
Without ongoing financial help from Washington, it's possible that more people could face dire financial consequences related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this year, especially if additional lockdowns become necessary due to the Delta variant. Lawmakers in Washington may need to consider taking action to provide more direct relief if Americans continue to struggle to find work or stay afloat during these turbulent times.
As the Census data shows, stimulus money can and does help -- and with millions of people calling for a fourth stimulus check, another direct payment shouldn't be off the table.
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