Sept. 14 (UPI) — Large-scale stimulus efforts, including direct payments to millions of Americans, by the government last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic helped lift almost 12 million people out of poverty, according to figures published Tuesday by the Census Bureau.
The bureau noted the changes in its Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement.
According to Census figures, the official U.S. poverty rate in 2020 actually increased one percentage point to 11.4%, amounting to 37.2 million people.
However, the poverty figure doesn’t account for “supplemental poverty measures,” which include government programs designed to help low-income families and individuals with provisions like child support and food stamps.
Other income also included stimulus payments and other economic relief packages, like the one passed by Congress in March 2020 in response to COVID-19.
“In 2020, the overall [supplemental poverty measure] rate was 9.1%,” the report said. “This was 2.6 percentage points lower than the 2019 rate.”
The bureau said the rate last year was 2.3 points lower than the official poverty rate of 11.4%.
“This is the first time in the history of the SPM where poverty is lower using the SPM than the official poverty rate.”
In its report, the Census Bureau said the direct stimulus payments alone lifted 11.7 million Americans above the poverty line.
Social Security, it added, also played a critical role and helped 26.5 million people in the United States in 2020.
Without the government’s relief efforts, the report said, the U.S. poverty rate would have been close to 13%.
“There were 11 states plus the District of Columbia for which SPM rates were higher than official poverty rates, 30 states with lower rates, and nine states for which the differences were not statistically significant,” the bureau said.
Congress passed two direct stimulus payments to millions of Americans in 2020. The first in March was $1,200 for most recipients and the second in December was $600.