Propel: Moms With Limited Income Among the Hardest Hit By the Pandemic

February 26, 2021

It is undeniable that women with children have been disproportionately impacted by the crisis. Study after study has shown that the cascading effects of the pandemic have caused significantly more women to either reduce their work hours or leave the workforce entirely. The impacts for moms with limited income are even more pronounced. Every month, we hear from moms all over the country about their experiences trying to balance their financial obligations with the needs of their kids.

Listening to impacted households allowed us to quickly administer over $180 million in cash assistance through Project 100 as well as stand up the Benefits Update Center (now the most used feature in Fresh EBT). Listening is central to our mission at Propel and it will continue to guide the products and services we design.

January Household Pulse Survey 

Early this month, Propel sat down with the Aspen Institute to share what we’re hearing from SNAP households through our monthly Household Pulse Surveys. One startling and growing trend we shared is that many households are borrowing from family and friends to make it through the month. In fact, a majority of households reported borrowing this way:

“I don’t think that shows up on anybody’s ledger, it is an invisible tax.”

Unsurprisingly, rates of borrowing were much higher for households with children. Read the full interview here and see below for results from January’s survey.

Slight decrease in food insecurity since December peak, while housing insecurity remained about the same.

  • In the past 30 days:
    • 32% have visited a food pantry vs. 34% in December
  • About 41% of respondents reported some level of housing uncertainty, the same level as in December.

Starting to see impact for those who have received the $600 stimulus payment

  • Only about 30% of respondents received $600 payment
    • Black respondents were much less likely to have received the $600 payment–22% of Black respondents vs 38% of white respondents

Fresh EBT users are overwhelmingly and increasingly borrowing money from their personal networks

  • 76% family and friends–85% need to pay back

Most recipients spend SNAP benefits differently since March 2020

  • 43% could not buy as much
  • 31% have to buy less healthy foods
  • 25% buy more packaged foods
  • 25% cannot buy brands they like
  • 14% rely on food pantries 
    • Over 54% of respondents reported spending $100 or more on food beyond SNAP benefits

More detailed findings will be posted to our website soon. Please visit our COVID-19 response page