CHN’s Human Needs Watch: Tracking Hardship, March 8, 2024


March 8, 2024

March 8, 2024 

The State of the Union edition. When President Biden delivered his speech Thursday evening, it was an opportune time for reflection. What has our country gotten right over the past three years? Where have we fallen short? What accomplishments can we celebrate, and what of the unfinished business that remains? 

On the one hand: it takes a calculator full of numbers to lay out the good that has occurred. The rate of inflation is down sharply – cut more than half in two years. Unemployment is at historic lows. Job creation has never been so robust – and hundreds of thousands of jobs continue to be added to the economy each month, despite high interest rates. New businesses are on the rise, and women, Black, and Latino entrepreneurs are benefiting greatly. More Americans have health care than ever before. Prescription drug costs are down for many, with more progress promised. 

And yet: so, so much work remains. One of the genuine heartbreaks during the Biden Administration was the failure of Congress to extend the expanded Child Tax Credit, which for a short time proved to be the most effective tool ever wielded in eradicating child poverty. After the expansion was allowed to lapse, child poverty roughly doubled, and hunger rose sharply in 2022. All types of care – child care, home care, family leave – remain underfunded or unavailable. Housing costs have gone up dramatically over the past few years, and now we are being reminded of the intersectionality of issues – one expert warns that “Medicaid unwinding” — a process by which millions and millions are being kicked off the Medicaid rolls – could lead to coming waves of evictions. 

In responding to President Biden’s aspirational speech, CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein writes, “[T]he speech was far more than a recounting of progress. It was also strongly about purpose: proposals to make lives easier and to invest in further growth. The proposals were based on a comprehensive look at drivers of economic insecurity for millions of Americans: high costs for food, health care, housing, care for children, people with disabilities and the aging, education, and junk fees and price gouging by banks and corporations.” 

Upon reflection, one might conclude that two things are simultaneously true. Ample cause exists for celebration of what the Biden Administration and we, together, have accomplished these past three years. And there is much unfinished business and work that lies ahead. 

3 million; 16 million 

President Biden Thursday night proposed restoring the expanded Child Tax Credit, a move that would lift 3 million children out of poverty and permanently ensure that children of low-wage earners and the poorest families receive the full CTC, making 16 million children fully eligible who now receive either a partial credit or none at all. Tweet this.


19 million 

The President also proposed strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit, which would cut taxes by an average of $800 per year for 19 million individuals or couples. Tweet this


21.3 million 

More than 21 million Americans signed up for an ACA marketplace health plan during the 2024 open enrollment period, smashing previous records. The number was a 30% increase over the previous year and marked the fourth consecutive year of increased ACA marketplace enrollment. The growth was due in part to expanded financial assistance for coverage included first in the American Rescue Plan and later in the Inflation Reduction Act. Tweet this


17.7 million+ 

But 17,774,000 Medicaid enrollees have been disenrolled as of this week as states continue their “Medicaid unwinding” eligibility determination process. Many of these enrollees remained eligible for continued coverage, but were removed from the rolls due to bureaucratic reasons such as missing paperwork; some, but not even close to most, regained coverage through the ACA marketplace. Tweet this


12.1 million 

Some 12.1 million households paid more than half their income for rent in 2022, partly because housing assistance is so underfunded that just one in four eligible households receives it. President Biden has proposed funding for 500,000 new rental housing vouchers, a substantial increase, subject to Congressional approval. Tweet this



The average weekly cost for child care was $321 in early 2024, up 13% from $284 in 2022. The American Rescue Plan helped 220,000 child care programs remain operational and helped 10 million children and their families access affordable child care. With the expiration of stabilization funding, child care programs across the country are being forced to raise their prices or close their doors permanently.  



Just last month, the U.S. economy added 275,000 jobs, a sign that the labor market continues to experience robust growth.


16 million 

Since President Biden took office, there have been 16 million new business applications – the most during any three-year period in U.S. history. The surge has figured prominently among women, Latino, and Black entrepreneurs.


3.1% vs. 7% 

The annual inflation rate was 3.1% for the 12 months ending in January 2024. In 2021 it was 7%.  



The unemployment rate has remained under 4% for more than two full years – the longest stretch in five decades. The February unemployment rate for Blacks was 5.6% ; for Latinos, 5% — close to historic lows. Overall, the unemployment rate was 3.9% in February 2024.