Spotlight Exclusives

Good News Goes Unnoticed: Report on ARRA۪s Impact on Poverty Falls on Deaf Ears

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In a recent state-level analysis of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) finds that the ARRA includes seven provisions that have kept millions of people out of poverty. The CBPP report examines the effect of ARRA on low-income Americans by providing state-by-state estimates of poverty reduction and economic assistance for 36 states and the District of Columbia.

The report finds that, conservatively, the stimulus successfully kept 6 million people out of poverty in 2009. Additionally, the stimulus reached another 33 million people living in poverty, typically adding more than $700 to their overall income last year. That۪s pretty impressive!

Given this detailed and authoritative analysis of our government, you would think that more local newspapers and national reporters would be quick to bring this data to the public. But it is striking how little attention the report received. To be fair this may be due, in part, to the timing of the report۪s release right before the holidays. But we also think something more insidious may be at work here. The concept of “government actually working on behalf of its citizens” inherently runs counter to the more frequently espoused idea of “bad government.” For example, if the findings had been the reverse that is, that this legislation thrust 6 million people into poverty and took $700 away from the poor last year the story would have probably made every major news outlet.

Clearly, this report begins to document how government stimulus programs are addressing the immediate needs of those most vulnerable in this economic climate. The fact that it received minimal attention is a sad reflection of our collective inability to believe that federal action on behalf of needy citizens can indeed be helpful and necessary when markets are failing.

Elsewhere on our Spotlight website, you۪ll find an excellent webcast of an interview with Nick Johnson, director of the State Fiscal Project at CBPP; Elaine Mejia, director of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center; and Noah Berger, executive director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The webcast examines the effect of federal fiscal relief and other ARRA provisions intended to offset state budget cuts. It also examines current state fiscal policies in North Carolina and Massachusetts and presents ways for other state governments to mitigate the impact of the recession on low-income families.

Posted by Shelley & Mike


Here at Out of the Spotlight, we offer a behind-the-scenes look at the latest news and information essential to anyone working to fight poverty. From key political appointees to clashes over policy, we cover the news that doesn۪t always make the evening news. Check out Out of the Spotlight for our take on the twists and turns of the latest political developments and its impact on poverty reduction. Topics and ideas are welcome! Just contact or

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