As millions of United States citizens lost their jobs during the first three months of the coronavirus pandemic, more than a dozen billionaires in Massachusetts saw their wealth increase dramatically.
Eighteen of the commonwealth’s top 19 billionaires reported a collective $16.937 billion increase in their net worths from March 18 to June 17, according to data from Forbes that was analyzed and published in a list online by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies.
The list of Massachusetts billionaires whose net worths increased drastically over the course of the public health crisis include Fidelity Investments CEO Abigail Johnson, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, New Balance owner Jim Davis, Pegasystems CEO Alan Trefler and others.
Johnson’s net worth increased by $4.348 billion in the past three months, the largest wealth increase out of the 19 Massachusetts billionaires included in the list, marking a 40.3% net worth growth in the past three months.
Collectively, the more than a dozen billionaires saw their wealth increase by 31.6% since March, according to Forbes’s data.
“Decades of tax cuts for the rich have fueled the growth of billionaires and their wealth,” the Institute for Policy Studies wrote in a statement. “Even in the midst of the greatest national emergency since World War II, tax handouts to the wealthy have continued – most recently in the form of the ‘Millionaire Giveaways’ slipped into the CARES pandemic relief law enacted in late March.”
Looking at the United States as a whole, the nation’s entire billionaire class saw their wealth surge by roughly $584 billion since March 18, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
The nation’s richest five billionaires – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, businessman-philanthropist Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, investor Warren Buffett and Oracle executive chairman Larry Ellison – saw their wealth grow by a total of $101.7 billion, the institute’s data shows.
“They captured 17.4% of the total wealth growth of all 600-plus billionaires in the last three months,” the institute said. “The fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg together grew by nearly $76 billion, or 13% of the $584 billion total.”
The news about the spike in wealth for several of the country’s billionaires comes after the Federal Reserve noted earlier this month that more than $6.5 trillion in household wealth vanished during the first three months of 2020, The Washington Post reported.
As the COVID-19 outbreak first began to ramp up in the U.S. in March, officials implemented restrictions on social gatherings and business operations, shutting down numerous nonessential businesses and leading to serious financial woes.
Countless Americans were laid off, hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents filed for unemployment benefits and many business owners were forced to shutter their companies due to the financial consequences of the ongoing public health crisis.
In the week ending on June 20, 1.48 million people in the United States filed unemployment claims, and last week in Massachusetts, 29,541 individuals filed for regular unemployment insurance.
Since March, more than 1.02 million residents in the commonwealth have applied for unemployment benefits, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.
The state has seen nearly as many new unemployment claims filed as it recorded in a two-year period, including during the Great Recession.
Residents across the country may now be facing a looming eviction crisis as well, journalists and housing experts have warned.
In Massachusetts, growing numbers of people have asked Gov. Charlie Baker to extend a moratorium on non-emergency evictions and foreclosures, which is expected to expire in mid-August.
The moratorium aims to ensure that renters and families across the state maintain housing and avoid contracting the coronavirus, which has disproportionately impacted low-income individuals and communities of color in the United States.
“Low-wage workers, people of color and women have suffered disproportionately in the combined medical and economic crises,” the Institute for Policy Studies said, adding that billionaires are overwhelmingly white men.
Source: MASS LIVE