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Stimulus Checks Kept Millions Out of Poverty Amid Pandemic: Census Bureau

Stimulus payments, along with expansions of government programs such as Child Tax Credits, helped last year to lift millions of Americans out of poverty, according to a new Census Bureau report.

However, while unemployment insurance failed to have as large an impact as the first two stimulus payments, the nation’s expanded unemployment benefits did its part to keep some 5.5 million households afloat as the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent delta variant raged on.

According to the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) report, 11.7 million individuals were lifted from poverty in 2020, though the official poverty rate increased for the first time in five years.

Although the official rate uses pre-tax cash income and doesn’t include things like stimulus checks, tax credits, or benefits like SNAP like the SPM does, it doesn’t take into account all the government expansions and stimulus given to Americans during the pandemic.

The SPM shows how expanded programs and aid during the pandemic helped lift Americans out of poverty. Without the stimulus payments, the alternative measure would have risen about 3.6 percentage points, according to the Census Bureau.

The SPM dropped from 11.8% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2020. The Census Bureau notes that this is the lowest rate since 2009, the first year that the government agency published these rates.

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