A tiny study published Friday by JAMA Health Forum found that people in the United States suffered less financial hardship last year than they did in 2020, when the COVID-19 epidemic began, at least in part as a result of government help.
According to the study results, 25 percent of individuals said they were not confident in their capacity to pay for housing, food, healthcare, and other necessities in 2021, a decrease from 34 percent in the previous year.
According to the researchers, 8 percent of people expressed concern about making their mortgage repayments or paying the rent on their property last year, compared to 13 percent in 2020.
The researchers also discovered that 12 percent of respondents said they were concerned about not paying for medical care for themselves or their families in 2021, compared to 19 percent the previous year.
According to the report, four percent of respondents expressed concern about affording food in 2021, decreasing from seven percent in 2020.
According to the researchers, the percentages of respondents who lost their employment or saw a fall in income in 2021 “remained high,” with 37 percent expressing anxiety about their capacity to pay for essentials and 20 percent expressing concern about their ability to finance necessary medical treatment.
During the COVID pandemic’s early stages, when there were widespread shutdowns and stay-in-place orders, “material hardship difficulties, such as difficulty paying bills or affording food, were disturbingly high,” research co-author Brendan Saloner told UPI via email.
We discovered that the incidence of these difficulties decreased in the first year, which is encouraging, but that the rate remained high overall for people who had lost their jobs during the pandemic, according to Saloner, who is an associate professor of addiction and overdose at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Although many people in the United States lost their jobs during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least partly due to measures designed to contain the spread of the virus, research suggests that government programs such as stimulus payments helped to mitigate the impact.
Previous research has also revealed that measures such as the Advance Child Tax Credit payments have reduced food insufficiency, or the inability to buy appropriate food, among low-income families trying to make ends meet.
Saloner and his colleagues surveyed 829 adults aged 18 and older in the United States in 2020 and 776 adults aged 18 and older in 2021 for this study.
According to the study, 208 people in 2020 and 178 people in 2021 had an “employment decline,” which means they lost their jobs or income.
In addition to meeting future housing, medical, and food expenses, 7 percent of respondents expressed concern about paying for power, heat, and water in 2021, a decrease from 9 percent in 2020, according to the statistics.
According to the researchers, 30 percent of respondents indicated that using federal stimulus funds to promote savings and investments will be a priority in 2021, increasing 12 percent in the previous year.
According to the researchers, in 2020, 24 percent of respondents indicated that using stimulus checks to cover mortgage and rent payments was a top priority, while 17 percent indicated that the payments would be used to cover utility bills, and 14 percent indicated that the payments would be used to purchase food.
According to the researchers, these percentages plummeted to 14 percent, 12 percent, and 8 percent, respectively, last year. As Saloner explained, “the strengthening economic situation explains why more respondents answered they would save a portion of their stimulus check-in 2021 rather than in 2020.”
“However, when families are stressed as a result of their failure to meet necessities, it has a terrible impact on everyone’s physical and mental health, [and] we are already seeing numerous symptoms of very high levels of stress, drug overdoses, and other injuries,” he explained.
Advance Child Tax Credit payments decrease food insufficiency by 26%, study discovers
Using data from a study published Thursday by JAMA Network Open, researchers discovered that advance Child Tax Credit payments, which were part of the federal American Rescue Plan last year, reduced food insufficiency or a shortage of food in homes throughout the country by 26 percent.
On the other hand, the experts believe that those advantages will likely be erased because the government relief package will expire at the end of 2020.
The Build Back Better Act included a provision for an extension of the program, but Congress has failed to adopt the legislation.
Food insecurity is only one facet of poverty and suffering that families endure. Hunger has significant negative consequences for our health and society that are preventable, according to research co-author Paul Shafer, who spoke in a press release.
According to Shafer, the Child Tax Credit is an important part of that package, an assistant professor of health law, policy, and management at Boston University School of Public Health.
“Hopefully, our work sets more pressure on policymakers to keep working and to find a package that can pass,” Shafer said.
According to recent estimates, up to 45 million people in the United States are food insecure or do not have access to adequate nutrition.
According to the Food Research and Action Center, a non-profit research and advocacy group that focuses on hunger and undernutrition, food insufficiency is a conventional measure of hunger defined as conditions in which a household does not have enough food to eat.
By the American Rescue Plan, which Congress passed in March of last year to provide financial assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic, families earning less than $150,000 per year were eligible for an increased Child Tax Credit for every child under the age of 18 who resided in the household as of the end of the previous year, regardless of their income.
The advance Kid Tax Credit provision increased the credit amount per child from $2,000 to $3,600 per year and delivered half of the credit in monthly installments ranging from $250 to $300.
According to the IRS, eligible taxpayers will be able to claim the remaining portion of the tax credit when they filed their income tax returns in 2021.
According to the Center on Poverty in New York City, this additional economic support helped lift 3.5 million children out of poverty between 2000 and 2010.
Shafer and his colleagues conducted a national survey on food inadequacy among households with children in the United States between January 6 and August 2 of last year and examined 585,170 responses.
According to the replies, food insufficiency decreased by more than twice among homes with children than it did among households without children following the first advance Child Tax Credit payment, which represented more than 77,000 households.
Regarding Hispanic American homes with children, food inadequacy has decreased from 22 percent to 12 percent, whereas it has decreased from 22 percent to 21 percent among Black American households.
Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, a co-author of the report, noted in a press release that the advanced Child Tax Credit “provides a historic chance to ameliorate long-standing imbalances in food poverty.”
In a statement, Ettinger de Cuba, executive director of Children’s HealthWatch, a network of pediatricians and child advocates, said, “Allowing this evidence-based policy to expire will not only push millions of children back into poverty, but it will also threaten the health and economic stability of children.”