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31.2% of Households Receiving Unemployment Insurance Report Having a Very Difficult Time Paying for Food, Rent, Other Household Expenses

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For many households that have experienced a loss of employment, unemployment insurance is a lifeline that provides much-needed funds for routine expenses such as food, housing and medical treatment.

However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s experimental Household Pulse Survey, from Feb. 3-15, approximately one out of three households (31.2%) that used unemployment insurance in the last seven days to meet spending needs reported still having a very difficult time meeting usual household expenses. Those include, but are not limited to, food, rent or mortgage, car payments, medical expenses and student loans.

The Household Pulse Survey provides a unique snapshot of the hardships experienced by households that rely on unemployment insurance to meet basic household needs.

By comparison, only about 12.3% or one in eight households that did not use unemployment insurance to meet spending needs in the last seven days reported having a very difficult time meeting usual household expenses.

It should be noted that the Household Pulse Survey does not directly ask if anyone in the household is unemployed or has received unemployment insurance. Rather, it only asks for sources of income households used to meet spending needs and includes unemployment insurance among the options.

In this article, “households using unemployment insurance” refers to households that reported using unemployment insurance to meet spending needs in the last seven days. This group may exclude some households with unemployed individuals who did not receive unemployment insurance or did not use their unemployment insurance to meet spending needs.

The Household Pulse Survey provides a unique snapshot of the hardships experienced by households that rely on unemployment insurance to meet basic household needs.

In general, to qualify for unemployment insurance an individual must be actively seeking employment, be unemployed through no fault of their own and have worked in a job covered by unemployment insurance.

However, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — passed and signed into law late last March in response to economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic — expanded eligibility, allowing some individuals not working because of the pandemic to collect unemployment insurance.

From Feb. 3- 15, about one in 10 (9.4%) U.S. households reported using unemployment insurance to meet spending needs.

About 16.0% of households that used unemployment insurance and had a mortgage or were renting reported having no confidence in their ability to meet their next month’s rent or mortgage payment — higher than the 6.2% of households that had a mortgage or were renting that did not use unemployment insurance.

In addition, about one in six households (16.1%) that used unemployment insurance reported that it was very likely that they would experience eviction or foreclosure in the next two months.

Not Enough Money for Food

Many households that used unemployment insurance to meet spending needs in the last seven days reported difficulty paying for food.

Approximately 16.3% of these households reported that sometimes or often they did not have enough to eat due to a lack of funds compared to 8.0% of households that did not use unemployment insurance.

Even among households that used unemployment insurance and received SNAP benefits, 24.7% still reported sometimes or often not having enough to eat.

In households with children that received unemployment insurance and reported sometimes or often not having enough to eat, about three quarters (74.9%) reported that their children sometimes or often did not have enough food.

In some cases, individuals receiving unemployment insurance may also qualify for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, colloquially known as food stamps, a federal program that provides food-purchasing assistance for low- and no-income people.

According to the survey, 21.9% of households that used unemployment insurance also received SNAP benefits.

Even among households that used unemployment insurance and received SNAP benefits, 24.7% still reported sometimes or often not having enough to eat.

Additional statistics on how American households are faring during the COVID-19 pandemic can be found in the weekly Household Pulse Survey data tables.

 

Abinash Mohanty is a statistician in the Census Bureau’s Social, Economic and Housing Statistics Division.

 

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