New Census Data Show Success of Federal Programs in Addressing Poverty

Washington, DC, September 15, 2021—A U.S. Census Bureau report released Tuesday demonstrates very clearly the powerful role of federal programs in helping avert what could have been a significant spike in poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying recession. Federal policymakers must build on this success by continuing and expanding their investments in programs to reduce poverty, both to rebuild from the pandemic’s devastation and to redress long-term systemic racism that has created poverty spanning generations.

“Stimulus payments, unemployment insurance, refundable tax credits, and nutrition programs combined to lift millions of people over the poverty line,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “The success we’ve seen demonstrates why it’s critical for federal policymakers to continue investing in programs that effectively address poverty—including those in the Build Back Better Act being discussed in Congress. And with the pandemic’s harmful effects disproportionately concentrated among people with low incomes, essential workers, and Black, Latinx, Asian, Indigenous, and immigrant communities, we can begin addressing our nation’s equity gaps by investing in these policies and programs that clearly work in lifting people out of poverty.”

CLASP released a brief today examining the Census Bureau’s poverty data and offering a set of policy recommendations that build on the success of the federal support. The brief also makes the case for why these investments are needed to address decades-long systemic issues, which the pandemic only exacerbated.

As Congress finalizes a package to rebuild from the pandemic, CLASP’s policy recommendations include:

  • Create the nation’s first paid family and medical leave program.
  • Guarantee affordable, high-quality child care and pre-kindergarten for families.
  • Create a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, essential workers, and farmworkers.
  • Invest in workforce development, postsecondary education, and subsidized employment.
  • Extend improvements to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
  • Invest in health and mental health.

“During a time when individuals and the nation were tested in ways we have rarely seen, the federal response worked as it should. We must learn from this experience about how to effectively address the acute problems still with us from the pandemic—and the chronic problems that our nation has never fully addressed,” said Golden.