In April, the unemployment rate hit 14.7%— the most disastrous figure since the Great Depression. Over 20 million Americans had lost their jobs or been furloughed. And yet something crazy happened — the national poverty rate actually declined.
That's one of the findings of a study by economists Jeehoon Han, Bruce D. Meyer and James X. Sullivan, who crunched data from the Census Bureau about income and poverty during the coronavirus pandemic. They found that the poverty rate fell from 10.9% in January and February to 9.4% in April, May and June. They credit the decline to government action, especially with the CARES Act, which massively increased unemployment benefits and sent large checks to middle- and low-income Americans. Had the government not done this, they found, poverty would have risen over 2.5 percentage points.