S.E. Williams

President Trump frequently reminds Americans that the nation’s economy is booming. The stock market has continued to reach new heights, corporations are raking in profits like never before and the unemployment rate is low across the demographic spectrum. In addition, wages are beginning to edge up slightly though on average, still below the level of inflation.

Despite these improvements, economic security has continued to escape millions of Americans. Many still do not earn enough to meet the material needs of their families and the public safety net many of them rely on to help close the economic gap, is being intentionally frayed by Republican leadership at the federal level.

The Urban Institute recently published a report focused on just how many Americans relied on this safety net in 2017. It also examined the efforts by some policymakers at the state and federal levels to enact fundamental changes to it.

So far this year, officials at the federal level have considered and/or enacted policies that alter major programs that help assure low income people have access to food, medical care and shelter. Some of the enacted and/or proposed changes include expanded work requirements for SNAP recipients, as well as for those who rely on Medicaid, housing vouchers and public housing.

Such efforts do not end there. They also include a focus on increased rental costs and health insurance premiums for poor and near-poor benefit recipients as well as a potential change to public-charge determinations (individuals dependent on the governmentthat could adversely affect lawfully present immigrants if they or their family members receive public assistance).

In December 2017, the Urban Institute launched what it identified as the Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey(WBNS). The survey sought to track individual and family health and well-being as the economy was improving and safety nets undergo significant changes.

During any given year, families can experience material hardships and based on previous research it is probable their difficulties will worsen as changes are made to programs that undergird the nation’s safety net.

Even with the economy approaching full employment, “nearly 40 percent of adults reported that they or their families had trouble meeting at least one basic need for food, health care, housing, or utilities in 2017.”

Although such difficulties were most prevalent among adults with lower incomes, these hardships extended across income levels and impacted families with and without working adults.

Those most likely to report such hardships are people in fair or poor health or those who have multiple chronic health conditions. Rates of hardship are also higher among young adults, females, Blacks, Hispanics, the less educated, and adults living with children.

View the Urban Institute Report in its entirety at https://www.urban.org/research/publication/material-hardship-among-nonelderly-adults-and-their-families-2017.