Nearly Half of U.S. Households Lost Some Income During Pandemic

A woman takes walk with a dog in front of the closing signs displayed in a store's window front in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020.

A woman takes walk with a dog in front of the closing signs displayed in a store's window front in Niles, Ill., Wednesday, May 13, 2020. AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh


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The findings released by the Census Bureau come at a time Republicans and Democrats in Congress are at odds over an extension of expanded federal unemployment benefits.

Almost half of American households reported that at least one adult in their home has lost wages since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States, according to a new Census Bureau survey.

In addition to the loss of income, Americans are also experiencing food and housing insecurity as a result of the continued spread of Covid-19 and economic shutdowns meant to contain the disease, according to the U.S. Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey that was released this week.

The findings come as job losses continued to ravage the U.S. economy, with another 2.4 million Americans filing for unemployment this week, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

More than 38 million Americans have sought unemployment benefits since March, but Republican leaders in Congress have said they do not intend to renew expanded federal unemployment benefits authorized during a relief package passed in March. At that time, Congress approved additional aid to out-of-work Americans, who are now eligible to collect $600 weekly payments from the federal government in addition to the unemployment payment set by the state. Those extra benefits are set to lapse in July.

The Democrat-drafted HEROES Act, which the House of Representatives approved last week, would extend the $600 payments through January.

However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell this week told fellow Republicans that he will ensure enhanced unemployment benefits would not be included in the next congressional aid package. Politico reported that in a call with House Republicans, McConnell said the benefits create an incentive for employees not to return to work because they would make more money collecting unemployment.

The Census survey adds additional context to national unemployment figures, providing insight into the experiences of U.S. households during the virus outbreak.   

The survey found 47% of households experienced a loss of employment income and 37% expected to lose income in the next four weeks.

Ten percent of adults said they were unable to pay rent or a mortgage on time while another 3% had deferred payments. The situation could become more dire in coming months as 21% said they had either slight confidence or no confidence they would be able to pay next month’s rent or mortgage on time.

The data was compiled based on more than 74,000 household responses received between April 23 and May 5. 

About 10% of adults reported not getting enough food some of the time or often. Another 32% reported getting enough food, but not the kind of food they needed.

The findings back up previous reports from across the country that demand on food pantries has skyrocketed. A U.S. Conference of Mayors and Bloomberg Philanthropies survey of  mayors found that 93% of those interviewed reported demand at food banks was up in their cities.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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