Children ages 3 to 5 participate in a Head Start classroom at the Carl and Norma Miller Children’s Center in Frederick, Maryland, March 13, 2023.
Maansi Srivastava | The Washington Post | Getty Images
Child poverty more than doubled in the US last year after financial aid that supported families in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic expired, the US Census Bureau said on Tuesday.
The child poverty rate climb to 12.4% in 2022, from 5.2% last year, according to bureau data. The Census Bureau attributed the increase to the expiration of expanded child tax credits and the end of stimulus checks that helped keep people afloat during the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
With financial aid falling during the pandemic, families are also under significant pressure from inflation. The cost of living rose 7.8% from 2021 to 2022, the largest annual increase since 1981, according to the Census Bureau.
The US has made historic gains in fighting child poverty during the pandemic thanks in large part to expanded tax credits. The child poverty rate dropped by 46% in 2021 to the lowest level on record, according to Census data released last year.
But the end of key benefits by the pandemic and rising inflation have erased that progress. Liana Fox, a Census official, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that child poverty has returned to its pre-pandemic levels.
The overall poverty rate also rose by nearly 5%, the first increase since 2010, according to the data. The median income of all workers fell 2.2% in 2022 compared to the previous year, according to the Census.
The Democratic-led Congress injected almost $2 trillion of stimulus into the economy through American Rescue Plan in March 2021. Democrats passed the relief without a single Republican vote through a process called budget reconciliation.
The massive aid package significantly increased child tax credits on a temporary basis. Working families received $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 for children ages 6 to 17. The law also provided a third round of stimulus checks, following earlier relief under the Trump administration.
The expanded child tax credits expire at the end of 2021. Republicans won control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections and Congress has not reached a deal to restore the credits.
President Joe Biden, in a statement Tuesday, blamed the GOP for the loss of the tax credits and vowed to fight to restore those benefits as he campaigns for a second term in office.
“The increase reported today in child poverty is no accident – it is the result of a deliberate policy choice made by congressional Republicans to block aid for families with children while promoting massive tax cuts for richest and largest corporation,” Biden said.
Census data showing an increase in child poverty does not account for the end of some other benefits of the pandemic this year. Expanded food benefits passed in March, and millions of people were kicked off Medicaid after protections that kept people enrolled in the program expired last spring.
Researchers at Georgetown University estimate that more than 760,000 children have lost Medicaid coverage. The federal government has warned states that many children may have been kicked out despite being eligible for the program.
Data published by the Census Bureau on Tuesday differed from the official poverty rate, which remained essentially unchanged at 11.5% in 2022.
The official poverty rate looks at people’s income before taxes and excludes stimulus payments and tax credits. Census data that showed a doubling of child poverty is an alternative measure that looks at income after taxes and includes these benefits.