COVID & Unemployment

With more people falling below the poverty line, a look at what benefits they might receive

Mitchell Hartman Sep 15, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
HTML EMBED:
COPY
The poverty threshold, just over $26,000 a year for a family of four, is used to allocate more than a trillion dollars in government payments. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID & Unemployment

With more people falling below the poverty line, a look at what benefits they might receive

Mitchell Hartman Sep 15, 2020
The poverty threshold, just over $26,000 a year for a family of four, is used to allocate more than a trillion dollars in government payments. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The latest report from the Census Bureau on income, poverty and health insurance coverage is out. The figures are for 2019, however, and, unfortunately, in this year of pandemic recession and tens of millions of people losing their jobs and income, last year’s numbers are already out-of-date.

It’s likely more people have fallen below the poverty line. And that matters, because the poverty line determines who’s eligible for a whole lot of federal assistance programs.

The poverty rate measures the percentage of people who don’t earn enough to get by in this economy. The income cutoff — called the poverty threshold — is just over $26,000 a year for a family of four.

Economist Bruce Meyer at the University of Chicago said that, in turn, is used “to allocate literally more than a trillion dollars in government payments.”

The poverty line determines eligibility for a host of federal aid programs, including Head Start and school lunches, SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps), children’s health insurance, family planning, parts of Medicaid and legal aid.

Valerie Wilson at the Economic Policy Institute said that with pandemic job losses, “the reduced income for a larger number of people will mean that more people are eligible for various programs.”

Wilson says job and income losses have been greatest among low-income workers of color, especially women.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

Read More

Collapse

As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.

Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.

Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.