Americans Are Struggling More Now Than During the Height of the COVID Crisis

Survey implies more than 91 million households are struggling to pay for basic necessities

Image Credits: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

More Americans are now having difficulty paying their bills than at the peak of the pandemic.

According to the most recent Household Pulse Survey by the US Census Bureau, four in ten adults have found it “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to cover their usual household expenses. This is the highest the number has been since the Census started asking the question in August 2020.

The survey implies that more than 91.4 million households are struggling to pay for basic necessities compared to just over 62.5 million this time last year.

In August 2020, roughly a third of Americans said they were struggling to meet basic needs, but that number fell throughout the rest of 2020 and the start of 2021. Once pandemic relief ended and inflation started to rise, that number started climbing again and has now exceeded its previous peak.

Unsurprisingly, increased energy, food, and housing costs seem to be to blame for the difficulties many Americans are facing. More than a third of the households surveyed said they have neglected necessities like medicine or food in order to pay an energy bill, while more than one in five say they have kept their household at a temperature that felt unsafe or unhealthy in an attempt to reduce their energy costs.

Meanwhile, the average spent on food prepared at home per month has risen from $220.69 to $288.19, with those with lower incomes affected the most. Households with incomes between $25,000 to $34,999 had their monthly grocery budget increase by 38.7% compared to last year.

At the same time, housing costs have been rising. More than 29 million Americans say their rent has increased over the past 12 months, with 18.9 million saying that it increased by over $100 per month. Additionally, nearly 5.4 million households say they are either “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to be evicted or foreclosed on in the next two months, compared to just under 4.2 million this time last year.

If inflation, housing, and energy costs do not fall soon, the numbers may continue to get worse.

The Household Pulse Survey took place between June 29 and July 11. Its conclusions are based on the responses of 58,304 participants.

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