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Fact Check-What’s in the new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill?

Claims are circulating on social media regarding the new $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, one of the largest stimulus measures in American history. This article aims to provide a breakdown of the major elements of the American Rescue Plan Act 2021 and clarify the misleading claims on social media surrounding it.

A post here shared over 1,280 times on Facebook questions, given stimulus paychecks only represent a fraction of the overall budget, what the rest of the bill would be spent on. Some users sharing the post suggest it would be “stolen” ( here ). This is misleading.

Another post here claims that only 9% of the $1.9 trillion bill will “stay in America for the American people”. Similarly, another post claims that 92% goes to “foreign entities” ( here ) Both claims are false.

The bill H. R. 1319 ( here ) which was approved by the House on March 10 ( here ) includes $400 billion for $1,400 direct payments to most Americans, $350 billion in aid to state and local governments, an expansion of the child tax credit, funding for pandemic response, among other provisions.

The version passed by the Senate in a marathon weekend session had removed a $15-per-hour federal minimum wage increase by 2025; tightened the eligibility for $1,400 direct payments, limiting them to those earning below $80,000, cut the unemployment insurance payment to $300 per week from the House’s $400, and targeted some of the state and local government aid to smaller communities.

STIMULUS CHECKS

About 21% of the bill, $400 billion, will be directed to one-time payments of $1,400 (not $2,000) to many Americans ( here ).

The amount rises to $2,000 when adding in a $600 payment that was part of the second relief bill passed in December 2020 ( here ).

EXTENDED UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

The bill also includes extended unemployment benefits at $300 a week through Sept. 6, for workers hit by the pandemic. Under current law, this benefit would expire on March 15 ( here , here ). Democrats agreed to reduce the benefit from $400 a week in order to secure passage in the Senate. The latest version also includes a tax break for the first $10,200 in benefits ( here ).

As reported by Reuters here this measure represents around another $163 billion, or 8.4% of the bill.

CHILD TAX CREDIT AND CHILDCARE SERVICES

The bill considers an expanded child tax credit of up to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 for each child under the age of six. The IRS will pay part of this in monthly installments of $250 or $300 from July through December, adding a benefits distributor role to the revenue collection agency’s responsibilities ( here ).

This one-year expansion would represent near $109 billion as reported by Reuters here , or 5.7%. The bill also includes about $55 billion to be spent on childcare programs and $1 billion for the early learning Head Start program ($56 billion, or 2.94% of the bill).

SCHOOLS

At least $166 billion, or 8.74% of the bill, would be directed to school’s funding: almost $123 billion for K-12 schools, 2.75 billion in emergency funding for non-public schools (0.14%) and about $40 billion to higher education institutions (see bit.ly/2Q0P5tF ). Additional funding allocated to the Department of Education can be seen here ( bit.ly/30B5pDx ).

The bill would help reopen elementary and high schools safely and provide aid to colleges and universities that have suffered major revenue losses during the pandemic ( here ).

PUBLIC HEALTH

As reported by Reuters here funding for public health totals about $109 billion, including $35 billion to expand the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare and $6 billion for the Indian Health Service. When including the vaccine and therapeutics funding ($15 billion, bit.ly/3rEcM90 ), the amount ($125 billion) represents about 6.5% of the package.

GOVERNMENT

The bill signed into law includes $350 billion, or 18.42%, in funding for cash-strapped state and local governments. This would help them cope with added costs for first responders, vaccine distribution and other expenses at a time when some of their revenues are falling. It aims to give smaller local governments more access to funds than previous measures ( here ).

SMALL BUSINESS

Aid for small-business sums around $51 billion, or 2.7%. Targeted small-business grants would total $15 billion ( bit.ly/38zDyIb ); $28.6 billion in a new grant program for restaurants; $7 billion for Paycheck Protection Program aid for non-profits and digital news services; $1 billion for theaters, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions ( here ).

HOUSING ASSISTANCE

Households would get help paying rent, mortgages and utilities and homeless people would be placed into housing. The government estimates that 12 million people owe an average of $5,800 in back rent and utilities. This aid represents $45 billion or 2.3% of the package ( here ).

FOOD AID

Increased benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would be extended through Sept. 30. Other programs would also benefit, such as the Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants and Children. This measures represent $12 billion, or 0.63%. ( here ).

Further reading about the aid package and other provisions included can be seen here , here .

TOTALS

Posts on social media here claiming that only 9% of the $1.9 trillion bill will “stay in America for the American people” are demonstrably false. As explained above, the one-time payments of $1,400 per person alone represent 21% of the bill.

Posts claiming that only a fraction of the $1.9 trillion bill is helping Americans are also misleading because they fail to mention other measures included in the bill that will impact individuals in the United States such as expanded unemployment benefits, expanded child tax credit and aid for childcare services, aid for small business, housing assistance and increased benefits of food aid programs, as well as public health spending.

These all add up to 50% of the bill. When also considering the money directed towards school funding, this number increases to 59%.

Regarding posts that claim the majority of the bill’s spending is allocated to foreign spending, this is false. It would be mathematically impossible for “92%” of the bill to be directed towards “foreign entities” as claimed by some posts given the aforementioned calculations.

The $1.9 trillion stimulus directs almost $10 billion to the Committee on Foreign Relations (or $9.76 billion bit.ly/30Gkeoa ), which represents less than 1% (0.52%) of the package. The money allocated to foreign assistance sums up to $10.54 billion when also considering the $750 million directed to fund global health ( here ).

VERDICT

False. $1,400 direct payments represent about a fifth (21%) of the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill signed into law. At least 59% of the spending will go into programs that will help Americans, according to Reuters calculations. Less than 1% of the $1.9 trillion bill is going to “foreign entities”.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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