Census: Higher incomes, lower poverty in Philly pre-COVID-19

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — New U.S. Census figures released Thursday show the city was improving incomes and reducing poverty last year — before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. City officials doubt those trends will hold through this year.

On one hand, the mayor’s policy director, Maari Porter, says the news is good.

"The current poverty rate in Philadelphia is down to 23.3% from 24.5%, so that’s the lowest rate we’ve seen since before the Great Recession," Porter said.

On the other hand, the progress may already be undone.

"It’s painful to see the reality the pandemic has had on our population," she said.

Porter says incomes were rising too. She says federal help is needed to keep the trend from reversing. 

She cites a study showing that the federal CARES Act held down the increase in national poverty and that another round of aid would be necessary to keep it from spiking.

"We’re pleased to see our strategies as a city to reduce poverty during the first term were working for Philadelphians, but we also know the reality is that the coronavirus has put the most vulnerable Philadelphians and people of color at greater risk."

Porter says the administration now is focused on stabilizing those vulnerable groups with food distribution, small-business grants, a worker relief fund, a nonprofit fund and rent subsidies. In fact, the city has doubled the amount of the rent subsidy. It will now cover $1,500 a month through the end of the year.