For Immediate Release: September 14, 2023
Contact: Kelly Allen, 304-612-4180
Charleston, WV – Nationally, the overall poverty rate and child poverty rate rose by the largest amount on record in more than 50 years, according to new US Census data released this week. The data also reveal that too many West Virginians—17.3 percent, or 308,825 residents, lived in poverty in 2022 according to the official poverty measure. Black (28.3 percent) and Latino (22.4 percent) West Virginians were more likely to experience poverty.
West Virginia was the only state to see child poverty increase according to the official measure- spiking from 20.7 percent in 2021 to 25.0 percent in 2022 (Puerto Rico’s child poverty rate also increased).
The increase in hardship was a result of the expiration of pandemic relief efforts that boosted household incomes and economic security, such as the expanded Child Tax Credit.
“Congress allowed many proven effective anti-poverty policies to lapse, and greater hardship for children and families is the result. Nowhere is that more clear than in West Virginia, where our official child poverty rate increased by 17 percent from 2021 to 2022, ” said Sean O’Leary, senior policy analyst for the WVCBP. “We have the tools to ensure more West Virginia children and families have a strong foundation upon which to prosper and thrive. We must take action to reverse the backslide we saw in 2022.”
These findings come from analysis by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy of new data on poverty, income, and health coverage in 2022, released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The expanded federal Child Tax Credit was responsible for a major portion of the record reduction in child poverty in 2021, lifting 2.1 million kids out of poverty. Congress’s decision to let it expire at the end of 2021 is a major contributor to increase in national poverty levels in 2022. Had Congress continued the American Rescue Plan’s Child Tax Credit increase in 2022, about 3 million fewer children would have experienced poverty in 2022— preventing more than half of this year’s increase.
“The good news is that policies like the expanded Child Tax Credit, nutrition support, and premium tax credits for health insurance were incredibly effective in keeping families out of poverty,” said O’Leary. “Unfortunately because policymakers didn’t stand by those investments, more families and children will go without the essentials like stable housing, enough food to eat, and health care to keep them healthy.”
The poverty rate in West Virginia was 17.9 percent and the child poverty rate was 25.0 percent in 2022, according to the Census Bureau’s Official Poverty Measure. Importantly, the official measure doesn’t account for important factors like the cost of living, essential expenses, regional differences or — most critically — the seismic changes in tax and social safety net policies in 2022, when proven pandemic relief programs were allowed to lapse.
For that reason, researchers suggest using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which paints a more comprehensive picture. The less complete OPM shows poverty remaining flat nationally, while the SPM reveal’s poverty’s sharpest increase in more than 50 years.
The Supplemental Poverty Measure is not available on an annual basis at the state level, but because nearly all children benefitted from the expanded Child Tax Credit and federal stimulus payments in 2021 and lost them in 2022, analysts expect the same dynamic to have played out in West Virginia.
The Child Tax Credit is not the only critical pandemic relief effort for which expiration is increasing hardship for West Virginians. The data released Thursday shows that in 2022, the number of uninsured West Virginians fell to a historic level as a result of pandemic policies such as Medicaid coverage protection and enhanced premium tax credits for marketplace insurance plans. But those figures do not reflect coverage loss underway this year after Congress allowed Medicaid coverage protection to expire in April. So far, 103,000 West Virginians, including over 33,000 children, have lost their health care coverage – many as a result administrative burden, not a change in eligibility.
For questions or additional help interpreting and contextualizing the Census and ACS data, contact our team at email@example.com.
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