AHS Faculty Publish Research on COVID-19 and Poverty

Memorial Belltower

Government programs and other forms of assistance act as critical safety nets in times of crisis. The federal government’s initial response to coronavirus disease 2019 represented a significant increase in the welfare state, but the provisions enacted were not permanent and did not reach all families. Drawing on interviews with 54 lower-income mothers and grandmothers, we analyze how families navigated the safety net to access food during the pandemic. Pandemic aid served as a critical support for many families, but participants also described gaps and barriers. Following the argument that food is a basic human right, we identify how mothers encountered three forms of disenfranchisement: being denied or experiencing delayed public benefits, being afraid to access assistance, and receiving paltry or inedible emergency food. We conclude by arguing for an expanded social safety net that broadens access to necessary food resources before, during, and after crises such as the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.