WASHINGTON — The number of Americans living in poverty declined overall during the Covid pandemic due to the massive stimulus relief measures Congress enacted at the beginning of the crisis, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
The official poverty rate rose slightly in 2020 to 11.4 percent, up from a record low 10.5 percent in 2019, the U.S. Census reported, but that figure mostly reflects cash payments to Americans. After accounting for all the government aid payments, the Census’ supplemental poverty measure showed a decline from 11.8 percent in 2019 to 9.1 percent in 2020.
The stimulus payments provided $1,200 cash payments to most low- and middle-income Americans last year, moving 11.7 million people out of poverty, the U.S. Census said. Another 5.5 million people were prevented from falling into poverty by the enhanced unemployment insurance aid. The poverty threshold is defined as income of less than $26,200 a year for a family of four.
Congress is currently working to enact more programs to assist Americans still reeling from the pandemic. The Senate returned on Monday after a monthlong recess to a packed schedule, including deadlines to keep the government open and a $3.5 trillion package to expand the social safety net and raise taxes on upper earners, as well as giving final passage to a $550 billion infrastructure bill.