On September 28, 2021, First Focus on Children and the U.S. Child Poverty Action Group held a webinar to examine what the new US Census Bureau data tells us about the impact of COVID-19 on child poverty, and the importance of action from Congress.
There are two different ways the Census Bureau measures poverty in the United States. The Official Poverty Measure (OPM) uses cash income, such as wages and salaries, Social Security benefits, interest, dividends, pension, or other retirement income, and has a uniform threshold for each household size. Conversely, the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) starts with cash income, but simultaneously adds benefits from the government that are not cash but help families meet their basic needs. The SPM subtracts expenses, like taxes, health care, commuting costs for all workers, and child care expenses from income.
The SPM will have a different income threshold based on location because of the variation in cost of living. When observing the Census under the OPM, the number of children living in poverty increased in 2020. Contrastingly, under the SPM, the number of children living in poverty decreased, because of the account of all benefits. Due to this fact, researchers use the SPM when looking at poverty because of the subtraction of benefits to evaluate income. Implementation of policy matters, in 2020, there were 2.2 million fewer children living in SPM poverty than in 2019. Some policies that counted in the 2020 SPM includes the first rounds of stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits, and pandemic EBT.
It was observed that these benefits assisted in decreasing children living in poverty, meaning there would be positive effects on ongoing relief past the pandemic. Past 2020, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) has kept 3 million children from living in poverty and has been reducing hardships on families specifically food insecurity. The second CTC payment kept 3.5 million children from poverty in August 2021.
During this webinar, Jacqueline Sealy, a volunteer with MomsRising and a parent of three, shared her lived experience with the CTC. Jacqueline shares that being able to afford child care has been a struggle for her family that works paycheck to paycheck and the CTC has offered her family more breathing room. The payments from the CTC assisted with necessities like child care, diapers, food, and extra curriculars. Jacqueline shares that it is important that Congress makes bold investments in child care because “children are our future, and we need to make sure they have everything they need in order to be successful.” She ended her statement with “The expansion of the CTC should be permanent”.
Representatives from First Focus and the U.S. Child Poverty Action Group also discuss how children in immigrant families are disproportionately affected. 34 percent of children of undocumented parents live in poverty. Many parents of these immigrant families were blocked from benefits during the pandemic including stimulus payments.
All speakers emphasized that it is extremely important that the CTC be expanded, so that children and families are provided the security needed to live a promising life. Child poverty is a stubborn problem in this country, and it requires a bold long-term solution. With an expanded CTC, potential learning outcomes are more positive. When there is less stress in the households, then the kids are allowed to be kids. Down below are links to petitions, in which you can show your support for various issues regarding child poverty. Link to event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq1o6pa0iZA, Link to Support the Child Poverty Reduction Act: here, and add your organization’s support here