More low-income Americans are skipping meals, missing rent

An increasing share of low-income Americans are behind on rent and struggling to afford food, adding to signs of growing financial distress in the economy. 

Among households using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’s boosted pandemic benefits, 42% skipped meals in August and 55% ate less because they couldn’t afford food, more than double last year’s share, according to a Wednesday report from Propel Inc., a benefits software developer. 

Those on SNAP are typically households with income at or below the poverty line.

The data also highlight that households were worse off in August from just a month ago. Since July, an increasing share of low-income households had utilities shut off, couldn’t afford the prior month’s utility bill or couldn’t afford rent. More than two-thirds of those surveyed who were receiving boosted SNAP payments said they had some form of debt.

The US economy “is fairing really well, but there’s a lot of hardship being experienced by people with lower incomes right now,” said Justin King, policy director of Propel. “We’ve seen a lot of cutbacks in safety net benefits this year and we’re seeing the impact” of those cutbacks now, he said. 

The report adds to other recent data indicating an erosion in consumer finances and sentiment, particularly among the lowest-income households, as labor market demand cools, savings wind down and pandemic social supports expire.

The US Census Bureau’s Household Pulse survey showed that more than one-third of respondents in August found it very or somewhat difficult to afford the basics, an increase from the July reading. Overall consumer sentiment declined to a three-month low in August and those making under $25,000 reported among the biggest drops, according to Conference Board consumer sentiment data published Tuesday. 

Food insecurity worsened after SNAP emergency allotments expired at the start of this year, and households received lower payments this summer after the federal government lifted the public health emergency in May, King at Propel said. 

The Propel data is based on a survey of 2,846 users in its network of more than 5 million users, taken in the first two weeks of August. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *