The United States government has made little progress in stemming the rise in poverty and inequality during the Covid-19 pandemic, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should take urgent action to address the rights of millions of people suffering the compounded economic and social impacts of the pandemic.
A Human Rights Watch analysis of public-use microdata from the Census Bureau Household Pulse Survey shows that the pandemic’s economic fallout has had a devastating and disproportionate impact on the rights of low-income people who were already struggling. President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by the US House of Representatives on February 27, 2021, provides key investments to mitigate the growing economic hardship affecting these parts of the population. The legislation is now with the Senate, where it may be amended before it is sent back to the House for a final vote.
“Millions of people in the US are falling into preventable poverty and hunger,” said Lena Simet, senior poverty and inequality researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The measures put forth in President Biden's relief proposal are urgently needed and the government shouldn’t cut corners when so many lives and livelihoods are at risk.”
The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on low-income people underscores the urgency of addressing the precarious financial situation that low-wage workers faced even before the pandemic, Human Rights Watch said. Raising the minimum wage to a living wage is one effective mechanism. It is also effective for combatting poverty and addressing wage inequality. Some legislators’ opposition to Biden’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour as part of the rescue plan undermines an equitable recovery and puts low-wage earners further at risk, particularly women and workers of color, who continue to be shunted into the lowest-paid jobs.
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