We fact-checked many of the statistical claims Biden made in the speech — and found Biden was highly factual, though there are some nuances worth noting. Here’s an assessment of seven of the claims we looked into:
Facts First: This figure is roughly accurate, but it relies on a broad definition of “educators.”
Biden said, “All told, the American Rescue Plan would lift 12 million Americans out of poverty and cut child poverty in half. That’s 5 million children lifted out of poverty. Our plan would reduce poverty in the Black community by one third and reduce poverty in the Hispanic community by almost 40 percent.”
Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, said “their assumptions seem reasonable and they are known for doing careful analysis.”
Biden touted an executive order that seeks to ensure people can still receive unemployment benefits if they turn down a job offer because they think the job will put them or their families at risk from Covid-19. He said, “Right now, approximately 40 percent of households in America have at least one member with a pre-existing condition.”
Facts First: This figure is approximately accurate, according to research data. “In fact, that’s probably an understatement,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, which studies health care issues.
Speaking about the US coronavirus crisis, Biden said, “We’re 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000.”
Facts First: Different experts have different expectations, but Biden’s “well over 600,000” figure is, unfortunately, very plausible.
The minimum wage and poverty
Touting his proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour from the current $7.25 per hour, Biden said, “No one in America should work 40 hours a week making below the poverty line. Fifteen dollars gets people above the poverty line.”
Facts First: It’s true that some people who are currently below the poverty line would move above the poverty line if the federal minimum wage were raised to $15 per hour: the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2019 that a $15 minimum wage “would move, on net, roughly 1.3 million people out of poverty.” Others offer different estimates; Ben Zipperer, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive think tank, said, “We believe the CBO estimate to be too pessimistic.” He said it is “more plausible” that between 1.9 million and 4.0 million people would be lifted out of poverty.
The CBO said families below the poverty line under current law would see a 5.2% average increase in income because of the increased minimum wage, while families above the poverty line under current law would see an average 0.1% reduction in income (in part because of a reduction in business income). The CBO added: “In an average week in 2025, the $15 option would boost the wages of 17 million workers who would otherwise earn less than $15 per hour. Another 10 million workers otherwise earning slightly more than $15 per hour might see their wages rise as well. But 1.3 million other workers would become jobless, according to CBO’s median estimate.”
“So as a labor standard — yes, a $15 minimum wage could be accurately described as getting most families over the poverty line if they are working full-time year round,” said Jeannette Wicks-Lim, associate research professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Wicks-Lim noted that there are nuances here. Some people have part-time work hours, part-year employment or bigger families; the cost of living varies widely by location, but the official poverty line doesn’t adjust for this fact; exceeding the poverty line may mean only someone has “escaped severe deprivation,” she said, not that “they are able to sustain a decent living standard.”
Biden said, “We need to tackle the growing hunger crisis in America. One in seven households in America — one in seven — more than one in five Black and Latino households in America report they do not have enough food to eat.”
Between December 9 and December 21, 14% of adults, 24% of Black adults and 21% of Latino adults reported that they often or sometimes did not have enough to eat in the last seven days.
Biden said, “Approximately 14 million Americans — 14 million — have fallen behind on rent, and many risk eviction.”
Facts First: Fourteen million is a plausible figure that extrapolates a little from Census Bureau findings for December.
Biden’s rescue package would provide $25 billion in rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic (in addition to the $25 billion Trump approved in December). Another $5 billion is directed toward helping struggling households pay utility bills. And an additional $5 billion is for states and localities to assist people at risk of experiencing homelessness.
CNN’s Katie Lobosco and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.