Melissa Harris, Sarabeth Gal, Southern Economic Advancement Project discussed on The Takeaway

The Takeaway
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Takeaway. I'm melissa harris. Perry for than six hundred thousand. Americans have lost their lives to the kobe. Nineteen alongside the pandemics. Massive illness and death toll is the economic devastation. wrought over nine million. Us workers lost their jobs. During the first three quarters of two thousand twenty faced with an impending poverty pandemic federal lawmakers acted swiftly. They sent out stimulus checks. The expanded unemployment insurance the increased food subsidies they implemented the eviction moratorium and they established cash payments for the child tax credits short. When they saw how many americans were in peril elected representatives worked together to expand social safety net and according to a recent urban institute. Report the result of these efforts was to lift nearly twenty million people in the us above the poverty line and reduce american poverty to its lowest rate on record. Now some of you told us about what unemployment insurance benefits meant to you and to your families during the pandemic and whether you're worrying about the end federal unemployment benefits in early september. Hi. my name is tania. I'm from tampa florida for the first time. In my twenty years of employment. I received unemployment benefits during the recent pandemic. After i was laid off from a scale position of fifteen years without those benefits. I would certainly be homeless and unable to see my kids. Because i don't have a lot of education and i had only fifteen years in jail not a lot of work background. I receive benefits than it was a lifesaver. Unfortunately i found out that my part-time assistantship job for grad school. That tape three hundred dollars. A week was too much to qualify for unemployment. Even though i had been let go by my other part time job and told to apply for unemployment as a result. I now have to pay back money. Nearly three thousand dollars in addition to not being able to receive the assistant that was helping make ends meet. I have no idea what i'm going to do because i can't go back to work full-time due to not being able to childcare. Because i have another little one on the way so yes. I've been extremely worried about it in being and i have no idea what's going to happen next. This is the lexus. And i'm calling from county. Hi this is john. Abbott hopewell new jersey as self employed music teacher and musician. The unemployment benefits are god set. I tried to bank as much as possible to prepare for the time when the benefits will stop in the meantime. I'm working to rebuild my teaching practice and get more performance work i've created the impact of the delta will be minimal but with a quadrupling of cases here in new jersey. I'm not counting on We're going to have more on the federal unemployment benefits a bit later in the hour. But first we're gonna talk about this. Recent decline in poverty rate. And what policymakers can learn from it with sarabeth gal research director at the southern economic advancement project. Welcome to the show sarabeth. Thanks so much for having me so i. How clear is that. The decline that we're seeing in poverty is caused by and due to the increased government spending. Well i mean it's it's very clear and the data already and We actually released a report last week. Pandemic prosperity southward tracking different indicators. And one of them that we're tracking is this monthly poverty. Estimate and you can really see month by month. How different assistance programs impact the poverty rate so stimulus checks arrive and the poverty rate plummets particularly for children. The federal unemployment expires in the poverty rate. Goes back up and so you can really see in real time how these assistance programs are impacting People who are living in poverty or near poverty so on the one hand this feels like good news. Like look here. We have empirical evidence that when we spend and we spend in these targeted ways to directly help americans in their families. We lift people out of poverty. Why would there be any bad news here. What are the critics of this. Well i mean i absolutely. It's great news and one thing i would say. Is you know. These are old programs Unemployment insurance has been around since the nineteen thirties. Earned income tax credit food assistance the sixties and seventies the child tax credit. The chinese and. These are bipartisan programs. They've been put in place and supported across party lines and so really what it showing us is that we have the programs and mechanisms in place to attack poverty. And we've just flex the muscle of those programs right now and so. I think that the question going forward is how much we want to flex that muscle outside of the pandemic and so i think that critics will come and say that it is too costly. But i think that it's just a budget question in the end. So what are we willing to spend if our goal is to reduce poverty and of course. There's an old saying that budgets are moral documents right if you if you want to know what you believe in. Look where you spend your money. So how do we move on this. Great pandemic news right. This is like the one great piece of news out of the pandemic. Is this idea that art. We've got the tools if we resource those tools. We can actually change the economic future of america's most vulnerable. How do we create the political will to do that. You know part of these programs were safety. Net programs like food assistance but others were really programs that were widespread universal like stimulus checks. And that was all about keeping the economy humming right and so this isn't just about anti-poverty programs but our economy depends on folks. Have confidence being out there spending and having enough money to spend and so i think that part of the conversation is not just the safety net and anti-poverty but really you know how we're going to bring the economy out of this pandemic really restore it and help it to grow and one of the ways to do that is to ensure that folks have enough money to spend so. I think that it's both the moral and the economic argument that needs to be made. And i think that's exactly the policy conversation. We will be in the next few months as a lot of these programs Reach their end. So on the one hand i want to jump rope and cheer lead and be excited on the other hand. How do i square these these graphs. These data points with the stories. I've been hearing from across the country About hunger during the pandemic about experiences of of homelessness the poverty line as a statistical measure is one thing but how are poor people actually humans experiencing this.

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