Novasutras Uplifters in the Child Hardship Fact Force are assembling information to help organizations in the United States come together and prevent the impending tragedies of eviction, hunger and homelessness that threaten millions of children. Paul Schaafsma has investigated levels of child food and housing insecurity associated with (but not caused by) the pandemic, as revealed in the Census Bureau’s “Household Pulse Survey,” conducted at regular intervals since April of last year. Paul has also looked at the recent Covid Relief Bill, to realistically assess how much difference it will make for millions of children who are most in need. These updates, and strategies for action, will be discussed in the Child Hardship Fact Force meeting this Tuesday.
The $1.9 Trillion Covid Relief Bill and Child Hardship
March 18, 2021
The $1.9 trillion stimulus bill does contain a measure of relief, but falls far short of what is needed. News headlines claiming the bill “cuts poverty in half” grossly overstate what the bill actually does.
The one time payment, for a family of 2 adults and 2 children who meet the income guidelines, is $5,600. However, Bloomberg estimates there are 11.4 million households that owe at least $6,000 in back rent. This does not even bring these households current with their landlords, a terrible omission made worse by the weak federal eviction moratorium.
From April through December of 2020, families with children were twice as likely to report owing back rent, and the rate of delinquency rose sharply with the number of children in the household. So those 11.4 million households burdened with $6,000 or more of back rent are disproportionately families with children.
The expansion of the child tax credit could provide families with children, on a temporary basis, with an added $133 a month for a child under 6 years of age or $83 a month for a child 6 years or older. The exclusion of people without enough taxable income has been eliminated. Those two changes together could provide some sustained help temporarily. Like all provisions of the bill, they expire in 12 months. How much help they provide depends on the steps households have to take to receive them.
The bill Vice President Harris introduced as a Senator, the “Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act,” dwarfs the relief provided by the stimulus bill.
Apart from the one time payments and changes to the child tax credit, the bill has some underfunded line items to address specific costs, none of which provide relief unless households know the help is available and how to access it.
The worst thing about the claim this bill “cuts poverty in half” is that news outlets know perfectly well this refers only to “official poverty,” which is calculated by multiplying the cost of the USDA’s cheapest meal plan by 3. It does not even take notice of the costs of housing, utilities, healthcare, tuition / student debt, transportation, clothing or any other basic life requirement. The portion of income that goes to food falls when housing costs soar, as they have for decades, leaving wages far behind.
What the Covid-19 pandemic revealed is the vast portion of America whose household income does not cover the cost of basic life requirements, like the 62% of renters who reported cutting back on food and other necessities before the pandemic began. In the United States, for every household that receives rental assistance, 3 households that qualify for and urgently need that assistance don’t get it, because Congress won’t fund the program.
“After adjusting for inflation: Median home prices increased 121% nationwide since 1960, but median household income only increased 29%. Median gross rent increased by 72% since the 1960s, more than twice the growth seen by adjusted incomes.”https://listwithclever.com/research/home-price-v-income-historical-study/
This is why, shortly before the pandemic, a study found 62% of renters cut back on food and other necessities to make their rent payment. It’s why the share of children 12 and younger reported by their mothers to go hungry shot up 460% in April, why Brookings found 14 million children did not have enough to eat by June, a figure Census Bureau microdata suggests reached over 20 million by December of 2020.
A conversation about the nationwide tsunami of homelessness and food insecurity, their relation to spikes in COVID cases and deaths, and the disproportionate impacts on families with children and people of color. Paul Schaafsma will review his latest findings, and assess the Covid Relief Bill.
What can we expect? How can we minimize the harm, and help the most vulnerable? Let’s talk about effective strategies for reaching out to organizations confronting the urgent needs emerging now and in the coming months. What are the best ways for the Novasutras community to engage? How can we mobilize our extended networks for immediate action? We are gathering a Child Hardship Fact Force to help get this information into the world.
Lobby Senators and Representatives in favor of effective bills like the Monthly Economic Crisis Support Act and the Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act, that now have a chance to pass ~ Spread the word in other organizations you belong to ~ Rally to support “Don’t Vacate” actions and call on government to halt evictions ~ Find or set up a local eviction crisis hotline ~ Suggest other organizations to contact, who are already engaged with issues of hunger or housing, so we can share this information and support their work.
Join the Child Hardship Fact Force to help us refine our message, to get our supporting research and communications in good order, and especially to get the information out to larger organizations in the United States that can mobilize people to apply pressure for action.