Americans have been clamoring for a fourth stimulus check from the federal government to no avail, but a new study could reveal just why a new round of checks might actually be not just beneficial, but critical for some of the lowest-income Americans still suffering from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

A study by the Capital One Insights Center found that while the three stimulus checks given out under former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden did in fact provide much-needed assistance that helped Americans, it still isn’t enough, and many have once again begun to struggle in the face of benefits programs ending and the economy starting to recover.

Those who are suffering the most are, unsurprisingly, the lowest income earners, which for the purposes of the study were those whose incomes were less than $25,000. Following the initial wave of the coronavirus and the numbers of unemployment that came as a result, the lower third of earners in the United States is still reporting 32-36% income loss, and underemployment was still 12% more likely among Black and Hispanic/Latinx workers.

A year out from the study’s beginnings in Spring 2020, 46% of lower earners indicated that without the third $1,400 check from Biden’s American Rescue Plan, they would have come up short on paying expenses, like mortgage, credit card and utility bills. By August, a third of the low earner group was already reporting that they had to borrow money from friends and family to take care of their bills. This came as several states ended unemployment benefits, and protections such as eviction moratoriums also ran out.

In addition, costs such as childcare have added to the struggle many are facing, with 50% of the low-income earning group reporting that they were forced to either cut back on work hours or give up their jobs entirely in order to take care of children. While reasons for increased childcare were not detailed in the study, those could come from children being kept home due to quarantines in their classrooms because of the virus.

The study also found that the middle-income earners in the group—earning $25,000-$100,000—are also affected, especially with child care concerns, with 30% of the group cutting back on work. As for high-income earners making more than $100,000, only 18% were affected in a similar way.

The results of the study seem to support the idea that the stimulus checks and other assistance was enormously helpful when it came to those who struggle. Previous reports showed that stimulus checks caused a decline in the supplemental poverty rate from 11.8% to 9.1%, but also decreased financial instability by 43% and household food shortages by 42%.

However, without extra assistance coming in, and increased prices from inflation, concerns are high that many will once again fall behind—especially senior citizens. Some states and local governments have stepped up with programs aimed to help, but many are still hopeful that a new check could soon be back in the picture. 

stimulus-check-5948809_1920 Representation. A COVID-19 stimulus check. Photo: Pixabay