EPI: Government support programs critical to fighting poverty in Rhode Island
“The continuation of the enhanced subsidies will keep coverage more affordable for middle-income families and protecting Rhode Islanders from inappropriate terminations from Medicaid when the public health emergency ends are important steps to protect coverage and access to care.”
The United States Census Bureau released 2021 poverty, income, and health insurance coverage data from its Current Population Survey and American Community Survey (CPS and ACS) on September 13 and September 15, 2022.
The Official Poverty Measure (OPM) rate in Rhode Island increased from 10.8% in 2019 to 11.4% in 2021. Rhode Island has the 5th highest Official Poverty Measure rate in New England and ranks 20th nationally for 2021. The Official Poverty Measure was developed in the 1960s and is based solely on food costs.
Rhode Island saw a decrease in its Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM) rate, which takes into account federal and state government investments and other factors including: the Child Tax Credit (CTC); the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC); Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits; stimulus payments; rental assistance; non-cash benefits; state and federal income taxes paid; payroll taxes; and childcare and healthcare expenses.
“The Supplemental Poverty Measure shows the critical role government support programs have played in reducing poverty in Rhode Island,” said Economic Progress Institute Senior Fiscal Policy Analyst Alan Krinsky.
Overall, the new national and state Census data reflect the positive impact of COVID relief – including expansions of the child tax credit, unemployment insurance, and health coverage – on Rhode Islanders and the rest of the country.
Poverty is not distributed evenly, however, whether by age or by race and ethnicity. Rhode Island’s Children are more likely than adults to live in poverty, and those ages 85 and over are more likely to live in poverty than other adults. Black Rhode Islanders are more than twice as likely as White Rhode Islanders to be in poverty. Compared with all Rhode Islanders, Latino Rhode Islanders are about twice as likely to be in poverty.
Rhode Island’s rate for residents without health insurance coverage remains low in 2021, placing the state among the best in New England and across the nation. Rhode Island’s uninsured rate stands at less than half the 2013 rate before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect.
“While insurance coverage numbers are good, the new numbers do not include the Cover All Kids law enacted earlier this year, which will increase the number of children who are insured,” said Krinsky.
The continuous coverage for individuals enrolled in Medicaid during the Public Health Emergency has helped to ensure that the lowest income Rhode Islanders have not lost health insurance, while the state has benefitted from increased federal assistance.
Enhanced subsidies for Rhode Islanders buying health insurance through HealthSource RI, which became available as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), have been in effect for 2021 and 2022. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) extends the subsidies through 2025.
“The continuous coverage for Medicaid and the enhanced subsidies for buying coverage through HSRI have been critical to ensuring that Rhode Islanders have access to health care during these challenging times” says Linda Katz, Policy Director and co-founder of EPI. “The continuation of the enhanced subsidies will keep coverage more affordable for middle-income families and protecting Rhode Islanders from inappropriate terminations from Medicaid when the public health emergency ends are important steps to protect coverage and access to care.”
The Economic Progress Institute is a nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to improving the economic well-being of low- and modest-income Rhode Islanders.