When the pandemic hit the U.S. back in March of 2020, the federal government was quick to dole out relief, loathe to make the same expediency-based mistakes made during the financial crisis of 2008. And notably, as far as staving off hunger goes, much of that aid seems to have worked, Politico reports.
"Lo and behold, if you give people money, they are less poor," said Elaine Waxman, an economist and senior fellow at the Urban Institute.
What changed about the government's anti-poverty approach during the pandemic was its willingness to issue direct aid to households in cash, rather than non-cash assistance like food stamps or subsidized housing, Politico writes. The method was simple, quick, and allowed recipients to spend the money on whatever they needed, rather than force it to be spent on qualifying items.
And the change was a success. The USDA recently reported that food insecurity rates went unchanged in 2020, "a remarkable feat after an unprecedented shock," Politico writes.
Advocates are now "hopeful that the pandemic response will actually drive rates down below pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2021, leaving millions of families better off than before the crisis." In comparison, the U.S. took over a decade to rebound from the spike in food insecurity that followed the Great Recession.
The Biden administration's child tax credit payments are also fueling a "dramatic reduction" in food insecurity. In essence, Politico writes, the pandemic triggered a "country-wide policy experiment" revealing to lawmakers and leaders the exact means with which they can drive down hunger in America.
"We shouldn't have to wait for a once-in-a-century pandemic to think boldly about addressing fundamental injustices in our society," said House Rules Chair Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). "We all ought to want to fix this." Read more at Politico.