Five Facts on COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Spending

Last week, the House and Senate moved ahead with a budget reconciliation process that could lead to passage of another COVID-19 relief deal. Here are five facts on the bills Congress has passed to date to address the health and economic consequences of the pandemic.

1. Since March 2020, Congress has passed five COVID-19 relief bills, totaling $3.99 trillion.

The first bill, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, passed on March 6 and allocated $7 billion to federal government agencies to combat the emerging Coronavirus. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed on March 18, 2020 allocated $212 billion for various causes, including income supplements and Medicaid matching supplements for states. The most well-known relief bill was the CARES Act, passed on March 27, 2020. The bill allocated $2.24 trillion to many causes, from the Paycheck Protection Program to funding for state & local governments and $1,200 stimulus check directly to individuals. The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act passed nearly a month later, on April 24, 2020, to add around $627 billion in additional funding to the Paycheck Protection Program and funds for vaccine and testing development. The latest package, the Consolidated Appropriations Act passed on December 27, 2020, allocated nearly $900 billion for COVID-19-related causes such as unemployment insurance and another round of direct payments.

2. The most recent COVID-19 relief, passed in December 2020, extended several provisions from the previously passed CARES Act.

This relief was signed into law on December 27 as part of a broader $2.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act. It included a revival of supplemental unemployment benefits for millions of Americans at $300 a week for 11 weeks and provided for a round of $600 direct payments to adults and children. It also included an extension of the deadline by which the (CARES) Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) resources must be spent to Dec. 31, 2021. The Coronavirus Relief Fund includes money for necessary expenditures and unaccounted-for costs in the CARES Act, making it an open-ended funding source for the Executive branch to spend as the pandemic evolves,

3. Small Business Relief is the biggest single category of COVID-19 relief spending to date.

With nearly $1 trillion spent out of $1.36 trillion allocated, small business relief (including the Paycheck Protection Program and federal disaster loans) is far larger than any other spending category. Income support through unemployment insurance and nutrition assistance comes in second, with $702 billion allocated, not including the $458 billion put towards direct payments to Americans. Health appropriations total $472 billion, with the largest chunk ($178 billion) going to grants for healthcare providers such as hospitals. Over $37 billion was spent on vaccine and treatment development.

4. In 2020, U.S COVID-19 relief spending represented about 18% of GDP.

As of October 2020, the federal government had spent more than 4 times more fighting COVID than it did to combat the Great Recession in 2008/2009. With the December bill’s extra $900 billion in expenditures, total COVID-19 relief spending is about same as all federal spending in 2019, which totaled $4.4 trillion.

5. There is about $1 trillion in COVID-19 relief that Congress has authorized but has not yet been spent.

Although Congress has authorized $3.99 trillion in COVID-19 relief spending to date, only $2.91 trillion has been spent. Of the over $1 trillion left to be spent, over $400 billion remains in the business loan programs, with roughly $200 billion left for healthcare spending and income support each. The federal government also does not have a full accounting of funds spent. A January 2021 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office wrote, “The federal government does not have a process to help systematically define and ensure the collection of standardized data across the relevant federal agencies and related stakeholders to help respond to COVID-19, communicate the status of the pandemic with citizens, or prepare for future pandemics. As a result, COVID-19 information that is collected and reported by states and other entities to the federal government is often incomplete and inconsistent.


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