Several thousand impoverished elderly or disabled refugees who fled persecution in such troubled places as Afghanistan, Somalia, the former Yugoslavia, and Cuba lost their badly needed Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits last week. Thousands more will lose their SSI eligibility over the coming year. A last-minute push in Congress to preserve these modest benefits failed before lawmakers left town to campaign for re-election; restoring those benefits should be high on lawmakers’ to-do list when they return to work in mid-November.
BEYOND THE NUMBERS
Following up on its September 16 release of national data on poverty in 2009 (which we analyzed here), the Census Bureau today released poverty data for the state and local levels showing that poverty rose in 31 states and fell in none. We analyzed the new data and found that the percentage of people in deep poverty — that is, with incomes below half the poverty line — rose by a statistically significant amount in 28 states in 2009. (See table.) It dipped in one state, Wyoming. Between 2000 and 2009, the share of the population living in deep poverty increased in 36 states.
As a Center report explained last week, the new Census data for 2009 reflect the harsh impact of the recession, as poverty and the ranks of the uninsured grew considerably while median incomes among working-age households fell.
Last week, we highlighted our analysis of the Census Bureau’s new poverty data, in which we found that unemployment benefits kept many Americans out of poverty and economic hardship in 2009. Food stamps helped, too. In fact, the increase in the number of Americans with income below the poverty line is nearly three times as great if you don’t count unemployment benefits and food stamps as if you do.
The Census Bureau data for 2009 reflect the severity of the recent recession, as poverty rose sharply and the number of uninsured spiked. The new figures somewhat overstate the rise in poverty, however, because they do not count the bulk of direct assistance that the 2009 Recovery Act provided to households, which kept millions of Americans from falling into — or deeper into — poverty (as a broader measure of poverty that Census will release later this year is sure to show).
The headline story in today’s Census Bureau report is the large jump in the poverty rate in 2009. But an exclusive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of the new survey data shows that unemployment insurance benefits — which expanded substantially last year in response to the increased need — kept 3.3 million people out of poverty in 2009.
We sat down with Arloc Sherman, Senior Researcher, to discuss what to look for in the Census Bureau’s upcoming release of data on poverty in 2009.
Here are three things to keep in mind in examining the official figures on poverty in 2009, which the Census Bureau will release on Thursday: