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  • People queuing at a food bank to receive their weekly package in Santa Ana, California.

    People queuing at a food bank to receive their weekly package in Santa Ana, California. | Photo: EFE

Published 22 June 2020
Opinion

"If we can prevent recessions from increasing poverty by just giving people money, maybe we could end, say, deep poverty among kids by just... giving people money," Atlantic staff writer Annie Lowrey said.

United States government economic stimulus efforts aimed at countering the financial crisis of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns helped alleviate poverty in the country, according to two separate studies released Sunday, sparking calls for further federal rescue programs.

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Both studies - one from Columbia University researchers and the other from the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame - cited the one time US$1,200 payments sent out to most U.S. citizens and the federally provided US$600 weekly bonus to unemployment benefits for those out of work due to the pandemic.

The two groups, while using different methodologies, found the same overall result; that federal stimulus led to better outcomes for the country's poor.

"Right now, the safety net is doing what it's supposed to do for most families - helping them secure a minimally decent life," Columbia's Zachary Parolin told the Times. "Given the magnitude of the employment loss, this is really remarkable." 

Meanwhile, the University of Chicago and Notre Dame researchers "estimate that poverty in April and May fell to 8.6 percent for the previous 12 months, from 10.9 percent in January and February," the Times reported.

Notre Dame economics professor and study co-author James Sullivan said in an interview with the Times that the huge economic shock of the pandemic led researchers to expect a spike in poverty, not a reduction.

"When we initially saw our results, we thought, 'How could this be true?'" said Sullivan. "But when you look at the size of the government response, it makes sense."

With payments and bonuses set to expire at the end of July, Atlantic staff writer Annie Lowrey on Twitter said that the results of the stimulus make a compelling argument for more aggressive and continued government programs to reduce poverty across the nation.

"If we can prevent recessions from increasing poverty by just giving people money, maybe we could end, say, deep poverty among kids by just... giving people money," Lowrey tweeted.

"Maybe just all poverty," she added. "Even during recessions."

"Poverty is a policy choice," tweeted progressive advocacy group People for Bernie. 

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