$1 Trillion Untapped COVID Relief Claim Not Quite Right

Some assistance has been designed to go out gradually over months and years.

Video Transcript

- A whopping $1 trillion.

- $1 trillion.

- $1 trillion from previous relief--

- --remains unspent.

PATRICK TERPSTRA: It's a Republican talking point.

- $1 trillion unspent.

PATRICK TERPSTRA: But is there really $1 trillion left over from previous rounds of COVID spending? Not exactly.

MARC GOLDWEIN: It's not as if there's $1 trillion sitting in a pot somewhere and we could be spending that instead of what we're doing now.

PATRICK TERPSTRA: The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget tracks the flow of COVID aid. They've accounted for how $3.1 trillion out of $4.1 trillion approved by Congress has been spent since the pandemic began. That leaves $1 trillion.

MARC GOLDWEIN: There's $1 trillion that we can't track the spending of. About 10% of that is money where there's just no good data.

PATRICK TERPSTRA: The government's own numbers haven't been updated since January 31. It's still safe to say that a big chunk of the $1 trillion has not been spent yet, and here's a big reason why-- unlike those stimulus checks that get injected into bank accounts right away, other COVID assistance has been designed to go out gradually over months, even years.

Some benefits like paycheck protection loans have to be distributed bit by bit as people apply for them and the government determines who's eligible. Tax breaks will be sent after Americans file their returns this season.

MARC GOLDWEIN: It's not clear how much of this is money that's never going to be needed, versus money that just hasn't been allocated yet.

PATRICK TERPSTRA: On paper, it looks like the US Education Department has tens of millions of dollars untouched that could help reopen schools. But much of it has been promised to districts that will seek reimbursement for money they're spending now. A spokeswoman says, "Questions about why the money is not spent miss a fundamental understanding of how states and districts plan their budgets and resources."


With the economy bouncing back, it's also possible some aid programs will not have as much need as initially expected, leaving money on the table when the pandemic ends. The Small Business Administration has not yet reported spending a hefty $275 billion in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

MARC GOLDWEIN: There's just been a very slow pick up on this, I think in part because small businesses have other-- other options.

PATRICK TERPSTRA: Other areas showing COVID money left to give include health spending-- $195 billion, income support-- $115 billion, airline industry assistance-- $7.4 billion. Democrats argue the country needs another $1.9 trillion stimulus now--

JOE BIDEN: So desperately needed, urgently needed.

PATRICK TERPSTRA: --saying, there's no time to wait for all previously approved aid to be spent. Patrick Terpstra, Newsy, Washington.