New Census Data on Poverty, Income, and Health Coverage Show Need for Robust Federal Recovery Package

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Reginauld Williams, rwilliams@massbudget.org

BOSTON, MA – The economic loss and hardship of COVID-19 and its new variants are far from over for Massachusetts communities – particularly Massachusetts residents of color and those with low incomes. The need for strong public investments that grow the economy, protect families, and reduce racial and economic inequalities remain as critical today as they were a year ago.

According to new national data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey,  median household income in the U.S. fell by 2.9 percent in 2020 – a result of the COVID-19 recession, which was one of the deepest and the most unequal in U.S. history. In this unprecedented downturn, the U.S. poverty rate increased by 1.0 percentage point to 11.4 percent in 2020. This is the first increase in poverty nationally after five consecutive annual declines. Health insurance coverage rates nationally showed no statistically significant change from 2019. At 91.4 percent in 2020, it is marked by an increase in enrollment in Medicaid and in Medicare.

Underlying the Census’s picture of poverty, income, and health coverage in 2020 is the critical role that unemployment insurance, nutrition assistance, health coverage from programs such as MassHealth, and paid sick leave played in mitigating the extreme harms of the health and economic crisis – all of which were made possible by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and other much-needed federal investments.

Despite these important strides in alleviating pandemic-related economic challenges for Massachusetts families, more federal action is needed to tackle long-standing economic hardship and inequity that predated COVID-19.

“The people of the Commonwealth are not out of the dark yet. Families here continue to face difficult choices about how to put food on the table, pay rent, and hold down jobs given the risks and complexities created by the Delta variant,” explained Nancy Wagman, KIDS COUNT Director at MassBudget. “Our federal and state policymakers cannot turn a blind eye to this continued hardship, especially in Black, Latinx, and immigrant communities.”

In the months ahead, federal and state lawmakers can put forward meaningful and lasting policy solutions.

Federal: Lawmakers have the opportunity to fundamentally improve the lives of Massachusetts residents and build a fairer, more equitable economy with the Build Back Better legislation currently under consideration in Congress. MassBudget is urging the Massachusetts delegation to ensure the final bill strengthens the nation’s weak unemployment insurance system, closes the Medicaid coverage gap especially in states that have not expanded coverage, invests in affordable housing, and makes the full Child Tax Credit permanent for families with low or no earnings. The Build Back Better investments should be funded by closing loopholes that allow the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay little or no federal income tax, and by strengthening IRS enforcement ensure those at the top pay what they owe.

Massachusetts: Lawmakers must meet the demands of the moment by advancing bold policies to build antiracist, equitable, and inclusive communities and an economic recovery that extends to all people.

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