There’s still more relief money to go around it — but who will get it?
At this point, the U.S. economy has recovered from much of the blow the pandemic dealt it. But that wasn’t always the case.
For much of 2020 and the first part of 2021, unemployment was rampant and jobs were difficult to come by. Plus, a lack of consistent in-person school kept many workers out of the labor force due to childcare constraints.
Meanwhile, since March 2020, millions of Americans have fallen behind on their rent, and many have struggled immensely to generally make ends meet in the face of income loss and rising costs. Recognizing how badly the public was in need of relief, lawmakers approved multiple stimulus packages designed to throw Americans a financial lifeline.
Over the past 20 months or so, Americans have benefitted from boosted unemployment benefits, enhanced tax credits, mortgage forbearance, eviction bans, and rental assistance programs. And let’s not forget the three separate rounds of stimulus checks that hit Americans’ bank accounts.
All told, Congress has approved around $4.5 trillion in stimulus aid. But to date, federal agencies have only earmarked about $4 trillion of that to existing initiatives. That means there’s roughly $500 billion left in stimulus money to go around. The question is: How will it be used?
Is more aid on the way?
Just because Congress allocated $4.5 trillion to COVID-19 relief doesn’t mean all of those funds have to be used up for that purpose. Funds that aren’t used for such relief measures could eventually get allocated for other government uses.
As such, Americans shouldn’t start making plans for a fourth stimulus check, because there’s a good chance lawmakers will vote to use that remaining $500 billion for other purposes. Furthermore, lawmakers don’t necessarily have to rush that decision. While there are deadlines for using up funds allocated for COVID-19 relief purposes, in some cases, those could be years away from expiring.
So far, the government has underspent in the areas of education, healthcare, and disaster relief. By contrast, it’s spent $844 billion on stimulus checks, and at this point, there’s no money remaining in that particular pot.
Now, the government may be strategically hanging onto some of those funds intentionally. There’s roughly $70 billion, for example, left over that was allocated for disaster relief. But lawmakers may want to sit tight on that money and save it for the next big catastrophic event, like a major storm.
Furthermore, the more than $200 billion allocated toward education does not have to be used up until 2025. That means school districts across the country can decide to reserve some of those funds and allocate them as their needs evolve in the coming years.
More money could go toward testing and vaccinations
Due to the state of the economy and plunging unemployment rates, it’s highly unlikely that lawmakers will use leftover COVID-19 relief funds to send out another direct stimulus round. But they may opt to use some of that money for enhanced COVID-19 testing and vaccination campaigns.
While the economy may be in much better shape now than it was earlier in the crisis, COVID-19 cases are still surging. Allocating funds to mitigate the ongoing health crisis is something that would make a lot of sense.