Report: Federal Aid Led to Poverty Rates Dropping in Michigan

US Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) calls on lawmakers to fight poverty during a Michigan League for Public Policy press conference in Lansing. (Anna Liz Nichols/Michigan Advance)

By Michigan Advance

August 24, 2023

BY ANNA LIZ NICHOLS, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—During the pandemic, despite challenges for families economically and in health care and education, Michigan saw some key improvements in lowering poverty levels, according to the Michigan League for Public Policy’s Kids Count report released Wednesday.

Though the 2023 Kids Count report, which examined child wellness data from 2021, tracked decreases in poverty levels for both children and young adults aged 18 to 24 statewide, some of the drivers behind improvements were temporary or one-time investments, Michigan League for Public Policy President Monique Stanton said at an event in Lansing Wednesday.

“Children who are living in poverty are more likely to face barriers throughout their life,” Stanton said. “So 18% of all Michigan’s kids live in poverty and poverty is not concentrated in one place in our state, it is spread throughout. … There is not a community in our state that does not struggle with childhood poverty.”

About 20% of 18 to 24 year-olds live in poverty in the state, Stanton added.

However, compared to data from 2016, the report says the number of children living in poverty decreased by about 71,000 kids and the number of young adults living in poverty decreased by about 73,000 people.

Those decreases were in large part thanks to the 2021 Child Tax Credit included in the American Rescue Plan meant to support the U.S. economy through the COVID-19 pandemic, Stanton said.

The rescue plan expanded eligibility for tax credits for parents and raised the value of the credits awarded. Nationally, child tax credits lowered child poverty levels, according to a report from the Brookings Institution.

The expanded tax credits were not re-upped by Congress after its expiration in 2022.

But lawmakers and advocates can’t be resigned to allowing childhood poverty to continue, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) said. Other programs and investments that proved helpful during the pandemic need to be prioritized, including providing free meals to school children and expanding eligibility to health programs.

“Kids don’t wait for us to fix things. We sit in meetings and they just keep going. We say, ‘We can’t get it in this budget, we’ll get it next year.’… They just keep going,” Stabenow said. “There needs to be a sense of urgency … about what we need to do for kids, because they are not waiting for us to get it right.”

The report reflects that about 1.8 million of Michigan’s children saw benefits from the advanced Child Tax Credit as part of the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021. Other positive trends shown in the report include teen births decreasing since 2016 in 77 of Michigan’s 83 counties and graduation rates increasing since 2016 in over half of the state’s counties.

Conversely, Stanton noted that schools were hit hard during the pandemic with learning loss and poor attendance.

The report reflects a decrease in preschool enrollment in Michigan in 2021 and English language proficiency for third graders decreased as well.

Though poverty and inequities in access to life-benefiting resources are statewide issues, 482 Forward Communications Director Imani Foster said the state has to look at exactly what prompts long-standing inequality in order to move forward. Foster’s organization works to support students in Detroit, where about 91% of third graders aren’t reading at the proficient level.

“Unfortunately, existing state and federal policies, along with systemic barriers and historical racism, have hindered the process of progress for many young folks across the state and especially those that come from marginalized communities,” Foster said “You can’t just pick and choose who’s deserving. All kids in Michigan have to count.”

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license. 

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