Lockdowns Poised to Wipe Out Gains Over U.S. Poverty

The escalating coronavirus pandemic could reverse decades of gains in the fight against poverty, as U.S. government aid for the vulnerable dries up.

In the early months of the crisis, the federal Cares Act, which gave an extra $600 a week in unemployment assistance and $1,200 stimulus checks, helped prevent poverty from dramatically deepening. But that lifeline for low-income earners is being cut off.

Unemployment benefits are set to expire for millions of workers in late December and talks over a new stimulus package have stalled — just as some states reimpose job-hammering lockdowns to halt a surge in cases.

Keeping a flow of government assistance open to poorer families will be crucial to ensure that the recovery from the pandemic doesn’t further exacerbate inequality, according to James Sullivan, an economics professor at Notre Dame University in Indiana.

Economists have described this as the “K-shaped recovery”, in which wealthy Americans are seeing jobs and investments snap back, while the lower-income ranks lag far behind. KEEP READING
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