Nearly 8 million Americans fell below the poverty line since the summer as the government stopped writing checks for stimulus, unemployment, and small business aid

  • Some 7.8 million Americans fell into poverty between June and November, per a new report by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame.
  • In order to fall below the federal poverty line, one has to have an income at or below $12,000 or $26,200 for a family of four.
  • The five-month spike is the largest jump in a single year since the US government began tracking poverty 60 years ago, The Washington Post reported.
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In the past five months alone, some 7.8 million Americans fell into poverty, according to a new report released Wednesday by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. 

In order to fall below the federal poverty line, one has to have an income at or below $12,000, or $26,200 for a family of four. 

The poverty rate surged to 11.7% in November, up 2.4 percentage points since June. This five-month spike is the largest jump in a single year since the US government began tracking poverty 60 years ago, The Washington Post reported. And the increase is a direct result of dwindling government aid, researchers noted.  

In March, as part of The CARES Act, millions of Americans received a one-time check of up to $1,200, there was an additional $600 in unemployment benefits, and small businesses received assistance in the form of Paycheck Protection Program loans. Research from June indicates that it saved 12 million people from falling into poverty. According to new research from the JPMorgan Chase Institute, the median balance of checking accounts rose by 65% in April following Economic Impact Payments.

But at the end of July, many of these benefits expired, leaving millions of unemployed or furloughed Americans, and those unable to work remotely, in dire straits. Checking account balances began falling in May and by the end of September the median balance of checking accounts had lost 50% of those April increases.

Nonprofits are seeing a surge in demand: Just look at the striking images of long lines outside food banks and soup kitchens across the country. 

Nearly a quarter of Americans have missed a mortgage payment during the pandemic, and half of homeowners have said they will run out of savings by the end of 2020, according to a March survey by Clever Real Estate, a service that connects prospective buyers with real estate agents. 

The economic downturn is taking a toll on Americans' mental health, too. In November, The Crisis Text Line, a free 24/7 hour mental health service, saw its highest volume of people reaching out in the service's seven-year history.

Meanwhile, the stock market has continued on an upward trajectory, and major retailers like Amazon and Walmart continue to see record profits. Billionaires like Jeff Bezos have seen their fortunes skyrocket. On the whole, American billionaires have seen their net worths grow by about $1 trillion during the pandemic, and are now worth a collective $4 trillion. Americans have taken notice: almost half of them are "very" concerned about rising inequality.

But help could be coming soon. On Wednesday, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said that a second stimulus check of $500 to $1,200 may be included in the final COVID-19 relief package expected this week from Congress. 

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