The First Year of the Recession: Key Census Indicators of Family Well-Being in 2008 and the Administration's Policy Responses in 2009

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Cecilia Elena Rouse
Member, Council of Economic Advisers

Testimony before the Joint Economic Committee
September 10, 2009

Chair Maloney, Vice Chairman Schumer, Ranking Members Brady and Brownback, and members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to join you today to discuss the Census Bureau’s release of data on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage in the United States in 2008.

The data released today provide an important piece of our overall understanding of the economic conditions that existed during the first year of the current recession. Based on survey data of households last March regarding their income and health insurance coverage during the 2008 calendar year, the data confirm what we had already surmised: along with rising unemployment, last year families were trying to get by with less income, many more had slipped into poverty, and the number of people without health insurance continued to increase. These data confirm that the economic recession was well underway in 2008.

These trends reinforce the need to expand health insurance coverage to more Americans as would be achieved through the President’s plan for health insurance reform. They also provide a new lens through which to view the critical importance of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and many other programs proposed by President Obama designed to help increase incomes, reduce poverty, and pull the economy out of recession.

In my remaining testimony, I would like to first discuss the trends in health insurance coverage in the Census report as well as the implications for health insurance reform as articulated by the President last night. I would then like to review some of the Administration’s policies designed to increase incomes and reduce poverty.

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