New study finds American families' financial struggles increasing as COVID-19 drags on

by Clayton Jarvis27 Jul 2020

New data from advocacy group ParentsTogether Action has found that American families are feeling more anxiety over their financial situations today than they were in April and May, the period previously thought to be the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

ParentsTogether surveyed over 1,500 parents between June 28 and July 1. Their findings paint a grim picture of the realities the average American family has been forced to endure as the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has gone from confusing to stupid to desperate.

Seventy percent of respondents say their families are struggling, a 12 percent increase since March and a rise of nine percent since April. Of those who believe they are eligible for unemployment, 60 percent have yet to receive any payments. Forty-five percent of families are either “somewhat worried” or “very concerned” about losing their homes once their states’ eviction bans expire. Only 56 percent of those polled said they were able to pay their rent or mortgage without cutting back on essentials like food and medicine. In April, that number was 59 percent.

While a rapid reopening of the economy was meant to get Americans back to work, many of the parents surveyed lost income for reasons other than closed workplaces. Half of the respondents who reported a loss in income attributed it to sickness, needing to care for their children, or a fear of infecting themselves or others.

No surprise, then, that many respondents support a scaling back of their state’s economic re-openings: 46 percent thought non-essential businesses should have remained closed longer; 70 percent think re-openings should be scaled back now that cases are on the rise.

How will Congress respond?

The most alarming finding was that 74 percent of those polled said they will have trouble paying for basics like rent and food without the extra unemployment benefits from the CARES Act. Those funds, which have been providing a $2,400 cushion to out-of-work Americans who have actually been receiving them, are set to expire on Friday barring further action on the part of Congress.

On Wednesday, CNBC reported that Republicans are considering extending the unemployment insurance benefit, but in a greatly reduced capacity: $100 a week until the end of the year. Democrats hope to keep the UI benefit at $600 per week, at least until 2021.

Justin Ruben, co-director of ParentsTogether, is urging Congress to put ideology aside and do what’s necessary to keep American families housed, fed, and in a position to get back on track once the pandemic is finally brought under control.

“When families struggle, kids pay the price, and right now, families are drowning,” Ruben said. “And the re-openings haven’t helped. Unless Congress acts immediately, things will only get worse as the extra unemployment checks stop and evictions start. To protect kids, Congress needs to provide ongoing economic relief, a pause in evictions, and solutions to the childcare crisis.”

Republicans are reportedly discussing a $1 trillion aid package that will include another round of direct payments for individuals and families. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has decided to introduce the Republican plan in bits and pieces rather than releasing it in its entirety, a move that will slow negotiations even further.

“Republicans have had months to propose a plan for extending supercharged unemployment benefits, and they still have nothing to offer,” Ron Wyden, Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member, told NBC News on Wednesday.