In 2020, federal policymakers took extraordinary measures to help millions of families avoid poverty and material hardship during the COVID-19 crisis. These temporary federal relief efforts—especially those boosting household incomes and ensuring people’s access to essential services—“played a central role in stabilizing our families and our nation’s economy, while pushing back on deep racial and gender inequity,” according to GCPI Co-Executive Director Indi Dutta-Gupta’s testimony before the United States House of Representatives Select Subcommittee Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Dutta-Gupta also argued that continuing to provide needed support to families would address pre-existing inequities and the weaknesses of social protection programs. Policies in “Build Back Better” proposals—with some crucial additions—would provide transformational investments to protect families and our economy against future threats, meet our national caregiving and job needs, and reduce poverty, hardship, and inequality for generations to come.
The COVID-19 pandemic and recession have wrought unprecedented hardship for families with low incomes, particularly Black and Brown families. The federal government alone can and must spend more to help families weather the crisis, emphasized Indi Dutta-Gupta, in his testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means. He highlighted the key role tax policy, particularly cash transfers and refundable tax credits, can play in supporting families. With its ability to reach tens of millions of households with speed and efficiency, the tax system can play a vital role in delivering immediate assistance and jumpstarting a lasting economy.
An administrative proposal to artificially lower the poverty line is “technically questionable, economically unwise, and morally troubling” according to Indi Dutta-Gupta’s testimony before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform. Over time, this change would harm millions of people by taking away their access to foundational support programs—including Medicaid and SNAP. His testimony emphasized the proposal’s inevitable harmful impacts, highlighted the proposal’s questionable assumptions about people experiencing poverty, and underscored the need to reform the poverty measurement to improve its accuracy and usefulness for the federal government and the many other stakeholders who rely on it.