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West Coast Poverty Center

West Coast Poverty Center



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Did Poverty Increase During the First Year of the Pandemic?

It's complicated.....According to new data from the US Census Bureau, the official poverty rate for the nation rose from 10.5% to 11.2% between 2019 and 2020. This official measure does not capture the impact of safety net benefits such as Social Security and other income supports, nor does it attempt to account for variation in the cost of living or other expenses. When those benefits and geographic variation are considered in a separate metric known as the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), the estimated SPM poverty rate for 2020 is 9.1% (down from 11.8% in 2019). This decline during the pandemic reflects the impacts of the government’s temporary economic relief efforts including stimulus payments and expanded Unemployment Insurance payments. For some analysis of measures of hardship in WA during this period of the pandemic, click here.

Poverty Forecast for Washington State amid COVID-19 Crisis

How will the pandemic affect poverty rates in Washington State?  WCPC Director Jennie Romich and UW graduate student Ellie Terry recently examined what may happen to poverty rates in Washington State as a result of the Covid-19-related unemployment.  In April, Washington’s unemployment rate stood at 15.4%. If the relationship between poverty and unemployment maintains its recent historical relationship, this means that the state's official poverty rate may soon stand at 15% with 3 in 10 Washingtonians falling below the broader poverty indicator favored by Governor Inslee’s Poverty Reduction Work Group. Read the full memo HERE.

WCPC Mini-Grant Awards Support Joint Academic-Practitioner Research Projects

Some of our recent collaborative mini-grant projects include.

  • Katherine Beckett (Law, Societies, and Justice) built on an existing relationship with the Public Defenders Association to study a local program (CO-LEAD) to provide housing and supports to justice-involved individuals otherwise facing homelessness. In addition to better understanding the needs and circumstances of the jail-involved, unstably housed population during the current pandemic, the team explored what the experiences of these clients reveal about the social investments that might be necessary to complement decarceration efforts.
  • Rachel Fyall (Evans School of Public Policy and Governance) and Matt Fowle worked with the Tenants Union to understand the experiences of low-income renters during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the impacts on tenants’ housing security over the course of the crisis and their reports about the extent to which landlords comply with eviction moratoria and other policies seeking to reduce the likelihood of eviction.
  • Lynne Manzo (Department of Landscape Architecture) is working with Wa Na Wari to document the pressing challenges, needs, and concerns of Black homeowners and artists in continuing to live, work, create and build community in the Central District and hear how they would prioritize addressing them. In particular, the team seeks to learn what adaptive models of ownership and cultural place-making Black homeowners and artists are interested in exploring.

These grants are possible because of support from the Seattle Foundation.