Millions of children fall back into poverty as Covid-era relief expires, experts say
The social safety net buttressing families during the pandemic is fraying, USA Today reported.
Expanded child tax credits, which gave parents as much as $300 a month per child, have been dead for months after Congress voted against extending them. And despite lobbying efforts, the latest spending plan excludes a provision that had allowed all schools to offer universal free meals. The cutbacks are already taking a toll, research suggests, as inflation rises and many parents and schools struggle to meet their children’s basic needs.
For all its turmoil, the pandemic actually was a time of historic drops in child poverty because of the robust social safety net, said Megan Curran, policy director at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy, as USA Today reported. But as those programs have come to an end, so, too, have the gains.
A month after the beefed-up child tax credit expired, 3.7 million children fell into poverty, according to a study by Curran and her team. The child poverty rate grew from 12.1% in December 2021 to 17% the next month, a 41% increase. Black and Hispanic children experienced the sharpest increases in poverty. The February numbers, released Tuesday, show a continuation of that trend: 16.7% of children remained in poverty.
The most common item purchased with the monthly payments, by low- and medium-income families alike, was food. After just two months of payments last summer, the number of adults who said their children were going hungry dropped by several million.