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Ease Inflation But Remember Consumers

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Ease Inflation But Remember Consumers

The U.S. Census Bureau last year launched a survey on the financial health of American households. While the Census survey is new and has little historical data to draw upon, the most recent iteration of the tracking survey confirms the challenges many American consumers are facing in these inflationary times.

“Four in ten adults said it has been somewhat or very difficult to cover usual household expenses in a poll conducted end of June and early July. That’s the highest since the Census started asking the question in August 2020. It implies that more than 90 million families are struggling, up from about 60 million a year ago.”

The survey similarly finds that households across every region of the country are navigating similar financial straits. It’s clear that the pandemic and its lingering effects have contributed to some of the challenging economic environment, but it’s important to note that through much of the pandemic many households and individuals received some forms form of economic assistance, whether through federal payouts, enhanced unemployment, or moratoriums on such items as college tuition loans. 

The Kansas City Fed in April 2021 released a survey that showed that many households had increased savings, which was followed in December 2021 by reports that increased consumer spending was dwindling those savings and contributing to the historic levels of inflation over the past six months.

This has led many policymakers to view today’s economic downturn as something broader than simply a pandemic hangover and are debating broader proactive responses. But as they look to ease inflation and the ongoing risks of recession, it is important that they remain focused on ensuring households have flexibility and options to meet their financial needs. This means ensuring consumers have access to varied forms of credit, including small dollar loans, revolving credit and lines of credit that would allow them to address unexpected expenses or higher monthly costs. 

Such flexibility and access will be particularly important in the coming weeks as families begin to budget for back-to-school expenses, and that should be on the forefront of policymakers’ minds, too, as we move into the fall and holiday seasons. 

July 28th, 2022 by