Recession Will Push Millions Into Poverty

Every day brings more dire news about our tanking economy.

A new report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities warns that the current recession could push as many as 10.3 million more Americans into poverty and increase the number living in deep poverty by as many as 6.3 million.

Deep poverty means having an income below 50% of the federal poverty line. For a family of four, this is an income of less than $10,600.

CBPP lists five measures that policymakers can take to help stave off severe hardship during this recession. Virtually all of them, it says, would deliver a lot of “bang for the buck,” i.e., infuse a large amount of spending into the economy relative to what they would cost.

Here are the measures:

  • A temporary increase in food stamp benefits–something also recommended by the Coalition on Human Needs, the Food Research and Action Center and a large, diverse coalition of other organizations
  • Additional rental assistance through the housing voucher program
  • Expansion and improvement of the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) contingency fund, which provides states with more funds when recessions increase the number of poor families
  • A temporary increase in unemployment benefits and an expansion of the program to cover at least some of the many low-wage and part-time workers who can’t get unemployment benefits now
  • Significant fiscal relief to states to avert extensive budget cuts that would further weaken the economy and states’ capacities to meet rising needs for health care and other services

The new Administration and Congress are sure to act on another economic stimulus package soon. Let’s hope they listen to CBPP and other organizations that are calling for measures to meet the urgent needs of low-income individuals and families.

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