America’s richest gained almost $1 trillion during pandemic as 8 million fell into poverty

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Trump says he's 'given up billions of dollars' to serve as president

‘It undermines the solidarity we need to get through the pandemic,’ says Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies

The total net worth of America’s 644 billionaires has grown by almost $1 trillion (£760bn) since the coronavirus pandemic hit the country in March, as eight million US residents have been forced into poverty.

On Thursday, Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies released a new analysis that showed that the total net worth of the country’s billionaires had risen to $3.88 trillion (£2.9 trillion) by 13 October, which is an increase of $931bn (£707bn) from 18 March.

This means that America’s 644 billionaires now have a combined $2.1 trillion (£1.59 trillion) more than the bottom half of the US population, which is around 165 million people, according to CBS News.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has had the biggest increase in personal wealth, as his total net worth rose from $90.1bn (£68.5bn) on 18 March to $203.1bn (£154.4bn) by 13 October.

The increase in Bezos’ personal wealth was caused by a rise in Amazon’s stock price, as US residents turned to online shopping as stores closed due to coronavirus measures and the hit on the economy from the pandemic.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has also seen a rise in his personal wealth, as his total net worth has increased 20 percent since March to $118bn (£89.5bn), while Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerburg’s wealth has increased by 85 per cent to $101.2bn (£76.8bn), according to the analysis.

The increase in the wealth of America’s billionaires is linked to the rise in the stock market since March, which dramatically fell as the pandemic hit the US and large parts of the economy shut down. Investors bet that the economy would rebound once stay-at-home orders lifted, which has benefited America’s billionaires, according to CBS.

However, many in the US, especially low-income workers, have struggled to regain economic security as the pandemic continues to affect daily life.

Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies and a co-author of the report, told CBS MoneyWatch: “It shows how delinked the stock market is from the real economy and the experience of most people.”

He added: “I would argue that it has a social cost [because] it undermines the solidarity we need to get through the pandemic.”

Many Americans are still struggling with the economic effects of the pandemic, as more than 20 million people are being forced to rely on the $333 (£253) provided via unemployment aid.

Last week, a Columbia University study found that the number of Americans living in poverty has grown by eight million since May.

The study found that the federal Cares Act, which gave Americans a one-time stimulus check of $1,200 (£927.11) and unemployed workers an extra $600 (£463.56) each week, was effective until it ended a couple of months ago, according to NBC News.

The stimulus package prevented 18 million people from going into poverty in April, but by September that number had decreased to just four million.

“We find that the monthly poverty rate increased from 15 percent to 16.7 percent from February to September 2020, even after taking the CARES Act’s income transfers into account,” the study’s researchers wrote.

“Increases in monthly poverty rates have been particularly acute for Black and Hispanic people, as well as for children,” they added.

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