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Need to know: COVID-19

A new slant

A new working paper finds that fears of COVID-19 outbreaks following large-scale protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd were overblown. Researchers found no evidence of increased COVID-19 cases in the three weeks after protests started in 315 of the country’s largest cities.

In fact, using cell phone data, they found that cities with protests saw an increase in social distancing overall compared to cities that didn’t have protests, likely driven by those not attending protests staying at home. Read the full paper here.

Dropping knowledge

Two new papers were published this week on the economic impacts of the CARES Act. The CARES Act provided direct payments to Americans (stimulus checks) as well as expanded unemployment insurance benefits. These measures effectively countered the impact of the pandemic on incomes, a new paper published by Brookings Institute shows.

Using data from the Basic Monthly Current Population Survey, the researchers find that income poverty fell 2.3 percentage points from 10.9% in January and February to 8.6% in April and May despite a 14% decrease in employment rates in April.

“CPS data indicate that government programs, including the regular unemployment insurance program, the expanded UI programs, and the Economic Impact Payments (EIPs), can account for more than the entire decline in poverty that we find, and more than half of the decline can be explained by the EIPs alone,” the paper states.

A second paper from the Center on Poverty and Social Policy at Columbia University looks at the positive impacts of the CARES Act but also highlights pitfalls, including administrative barriers that have kept some from accessing the stimulus payments or expanded unemployment insurance.

“The CARES Act features an unprecedented set of income transfers with potential to return poverty rates to pre-crisis levels if enough families are able to access the benefits,” the authors state. The graphic below compares researchers’ projections of poverty rates with and without the CARES Act.

Screen Shot 2020 06 26 at 1.58.14 PM

The authors point out that in the absence of a quick turnaround in employment rates, more help will be needed when the expanded unemployment benefits expire in July: “If the crisis and its effects on the labor market are prolonged, the regular provision of income support to low-income families will likely be needed throughout the crisis to prevent future increases in poverty and/or material hardship.”

Need to know

Friday@Five will be taking a break the next two weeks and will return Friday, July 17. I hope everyone stays safe and healthy!

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