Immediate Policy Responses

Provide economic support for children living in poverty.

Low-income households have borne the brunt of unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and families with children report even greater rates of food and housing insecurity. Providing financial support that helps kids eat and stay in their homes could bring lifelong benefits to families who lost work through no fault of their own. It would also help close the racial wealth gap created by centuries of structural racism.

Freeze all evictions.

CUSP documents that most states froze evictions for part of the pandemic, demonstrating that it is possible to do so. Freezing evictions prevents individuals and families with kids, who are even more at risk of eviction, from being forced out onto the streets in winter, during a pandemic. The federal eviction moratorium currently in place is not as strong as state eviction moratoriums, suggesting the federal moratorium could be strengthened and state eviction moratoriums extended.

Prioritize vaccines for low-income workers with high exposure to COVID-19.

Essential workers faced exposure to COVID-19 through contact with sometimes hundreds of people each day through their work and continued to suffer excess mortality as a result. Vaccines are highly effective for preventing COVID-19 and could protect workers.

Improve unemployment insurance.

The COVID-19 unemployment crisis highlighted that states failed to disperse unemployment insurance to those who needed it. Unemployment insurance covered too few people, with too little money, for too brief a period. Federalizing unemployment insurance would streamline administration and allow for standardized amounts and duration of unemployment insurance. Automatic stabilizers linked to unemployment indicators could increase the amount and duration of unemployment insurance in periods of high unemployment, when people are less likely to be able to find work. Unemployment insurance receipt was associated with reduced food insufficiency during the COVID-19 pandemic, and greater amounts of unemployment insurance were associated with larger reductions in food insufficiency.

Raise the minimum wage.

The minimum wage is below a living wage in most states, and tipped minimum wage policies exclude many people from even the lowest wages. Raising the minimum wage would ensure that people who are working hard earn enough money to feed their families and stay in their homes. A new preprint led by the CUSP team shows an association between living in a state with a $12 minimum wage or higher and reduced food insufficiency in all households and those with children during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that raising the minimum wage to $15 would result in 1 million people being lifted out of poverty. While the CBO estimated increasing the minimum wage would be associated with 1.3 million fewer jobs, economists differ in their estimates and opinions on whether raising the minimum wage would lead to job losses.

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