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Study: Millions Fell Into Poverty as Federal Relief Ran Out

Columbia researchers say number of US poor has grown by 8M since May
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 16, 2020 7:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – The world's poor have been hit the hardest by the pandemic—and in the US, that group includes 6 million to 8 million more people than it did a few months ago, according to two studies released this week. Columbia University researchers found that the number of poor people in the US actually fell in the early months of the crisis, when the $2 trillion Cares Act provided $1,200 stimulus checks and an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits, but the gains were reversed as aid dried up, causing 8 million people to fall into poverty since May, reports the New York Times. Researchers from Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, who measured income by year instead of by month, put the number at 6 million, including 2.5 million children.

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"These numbers are very concerning," University of Chicago economist Bruce D. Meyer tells the Times. "They tell us people are having a lot more trouble paying their bills, paying their rent, putting food on the table." The studies found that Black and Latino Americans are around twice as likely to be in poverty as white Americans. Authors of both studies found that the Cares Act had been extremely successful in keeping people out of poverty and urged Congress to consider their research when crafting future stimulus programs, the Guardian reports. "The Cares Act was very successful," says Columbia researcher Christopher Wimer. "But one of its shortcomings was its temporary nature." (Read more poverty stories.)

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