The percentage of Americans living in poverty decreased between 2019 and 2020 thanks to Covid-related stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, according to one metric measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure, which includes stimulus and other government assistance in its income estimations when calculating poverty percentages, dropped to 9.1% in 2020 from 2019's 11.8%, according to new data released Tuesday. The poverty threshold for a family of four in 2020 was $26,496, up from 2019's $25,750.
This is the the lowest rate since the SPM was first measured in 2009 and is also the first time the SPM was lower than the official poverty rate, which doesn't factor stimulus or other forms of government assistance into its calculations. The Census' official poverty rate increased 1 percentage point from 2019 to 11.4% in 2020.
The Census Bureau found that unemployment insurance benefits prevented 5.5 million people from falling into poverty last year. Stimulus and economic relief payments related to the pandemic also moved 11.7 million Americans out of poverty.
The Internal Revenue Service issued two rounds of stimulus payments in 2020, with eligible individuals getting $1,400 checks in April of last year and $600 in December. Parents also received $500 per eligible dependent in the first round and $600 per dependent in the second.
For Americans whose incomes have dried up as key federal programs — including payments for part-time workers and freelancers, and extended benefits — have finally lapsed, there are still several programs in place to help.