Compensation Ends, US Child Poverty Rises

The results of a new study show the number of children in America living in poverty has skyrocketed just one month after extended child benefits ended. Advocates fear that the lack of compensation will undermine what they see as an important achievement in reducing poverty.

Columbia University’s Center for Poverty and Social Policy estimates an additional 3.7 million children lived in poverty in January, up 41 percent from December, when families received the last benefit. That federal aid started in July but ended after President Joe Biden’s brainchild, the bill Build Back Better or Rebuild Better, stagnate in a divided Congress. The allowance of up to $300 per child is sent directly to the bank account on the 15th of every month. Last week, for the second time this year the compensation was no longer available.

The Columbia University study, which combined U.S. annual Census data with information from the Census Bureau’s latest Population Survey monthly bulletin, found the monthly child poverty rate rose from 12.1% in December to 17% in January. That’s the highest level since December 2020, when America was overwhelmed by high unemployment and a new wave of COVID-19. Black and Latino children recorded the highest percentage increases in poverty — 5.9% and 7.1%, respectively.

Most American families earn $250 per month per child if they have children ages 6 to 17; and $300 if their child is under 6 years old. The program’s annual cost is about $120 billion. The goal is to give parents cash to spend on their monthly needs.

Republicans in Congress have generally rallied against the extended benefits – describing it as excessive, fueling inflation and making people lazy. But when it was initially passed, many Democrats publicly stated their intention to make the benefits America’s social safety net. [ka/lt]