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4 ways COVID-19 has exposed gaps in the US social safety net

2 26 19

The United States is experiencing its steepest economic slide in modern history. Tens of millions of Americans have filed new unemployment claims as the coronavirus shutters businesses and forces companies to lay off staff.

People need support to help them through the crisis in a few key ways – cash to meet immediate financial needs, health care to cover them should they become ill and housing even if they can’t make rent. Despite federal stimulus efforts north of US$2 trillion – so far – it is likely that some of those currently being affected will fall through the cracks.

As a scholar who studies how people enroll in public programs, I and my colleague Cecille Joan Avila, who researches social programs related to women’s health, have seen how well-intentioned policies can sometimes fail those they are supposed to help.

We took a deeper look at how difficult it might be for people to navigate their way through the U.S.‘s patchwork of social safety net measures as they try to stay afloat during the pandemic and economic downturn. Here are four gaps that we found:

Congress passed stimulus measures that are providing some Americans with a one-time check of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child along with a temporary boost in unemployment benefits. Many received their stimulus through direct deposit, but millions of low-income Americans experienced problems and delays receiving payment. As many as 20 million may have had stimulus deposits go to tax preparers who take a fee out of refunds because clients are too poor to pay for tax prep up front. There are a variety of other reasons for delays: if individuals haven’t filed their 2019 tax........

© The Conversation