Assessing Claims within the Coronavirus Stimulus Debate

Prior to the vote on President Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package, lawmakers made a number of misleading claims to advance their position on the bill. Here’s a fact-checking of some common discussion points.


“This is supposed to be a Covid bill. Only 9 percent of this goes to Covid. – Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and minority leader of the House, in an interview this week on Fox News.

It is misleading. A spokeswoman for Mr McCarthy said the 9 percent related to the $ 160 billion for a national vaccination program, advanced testing, and a public health employment program as outlined by the Biden administration. In other words, 8.4 percent, or $ 160 billion of the $ 1.9 trillion package, will be dedicated specifically to fighting the coronavirus.

However, this is a fairly narrow interpretation of pandemic-related funding. The bill also includes other health expenditures such as subsidizing insurance coverage for laid-off workers, extending paid sick leave, and funding veterans’ care.

And like the first two relief bills signed by President Donald J. Trump and an alternative measure proposed by ten Republican lawmakers this year, much of the Biden Plan is devoted to providing financial support to families and businesses brought about by the economic impact of the Pandemic. The $ 1,400 stimulus tests and the unemployment benefit expansion are the two largest single expenditures, according to a breakdown by the Committee on Responsible Federal Budget.


“We put the numbers in and here’s your receipt, @SpeakerPelosi @SenSchumer” – Senator Marsha Blackburn on Twitter this week, breaking the bill into categories like art, museums and library services; Pelosis subway; Services including planned parenting; and “climate justice”.

It is misleading. Ms. Blackburn, Republican of Tennessee, accused the Democratic leadership of drafting a $ 1.9 trillion bill that amounted to a liberal “wish list”. However, the four specific funding areas she highlighted add up to $ 547 million, or about 0.03 percent of the total $ 1.9 trillion.

“Pelosis Subway” refers to a project to expand the Bay Area Rapid Transit system to downtown San Jose, an hour south of San Francisco and represented by District Spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi. The project is actually in the district of another Democrat, Representative Zoe Lofgren.

A spokeswoman for the House Transportation Committee said the BART expansion had not received any special funding but was “simply funded in proportion to other similar projects across the country.”

In total, the bill includes $ 30 billion for public transportation, the majority of which will cover the cost of running transportation systems across the country. Roughly $ 1 billion of this will go to a transportation funding program to ensure that approved transit projects – such as the BART expansion and rail improvements in Republican-run states like Indiana and Arizona – remain solvent.

“Art, Museums, and Library Services” refers to the $ 135 million allocated to the National Art Foundation and $ 200 million allocated to the Museum and Library Services Institute.

The bill also provides $ 50 million for family planning projects, which Ms. Blackburn described as “services including planned parenting.” The group is not specifically mentioned in the bill, but has previously received family planning grants. Other fellows include state and local health officials (including the Tennessee Department of Health’s family planning program) and other nonprofit organizations.

Another US $ 50 million is earmarked for “environmental justice purposes,” the bill says, to address health inequalities caused by pollution and pandemics.


Apr. 26, 2021, 11:02 p.m. ET


“There are planned parenting bailouts and grants for illegal immigrant families.” – Representative Jim Banks, Republican of Indiana, in an interview this week on Fox News.

It is misleading. Mr Banks’ claim that “illegal immigrant families” receive incentive grants applies to families with mixed immigration status, not families in which all members are undocumented. According to the bill, couples filing their taxes together only need to have a valid Social Security number to receive a stimulus check. But the amount would be $ 1,400 for one person, not $ 2,800 for a couple.

In other words, American citizens or legal residents married to undocumented immigrants would receive the $ 1,400 but their spouses would not.

The first two rounds of stimulus testing had the same conditions with practically identical language.


“There is over a trillion dollars of money that was not spent on previous bipartisan auxiliary bills. The money is still in a bank account. – Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican of Louisiana, in an interview this week on ABC.

“If you think about what’s already happened, there were $ 4 trillion in incentives. There’s still a trillion dollar worth, or nearly a trillion dollars, that hasn’t even been spent. – Senator Bill Hagerty, Republican of Tennessee, in an interview this week on Fox Business.

It is misleading. In a comment published by the Washington Post this month, Scalise linked up with the Committee on a Responsible Federal Budget’s coronavirus spending tracker as the source for that claim. About $ 3 trillion has already been spent, according to the tracker. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that $ 1 trillion is wasted.

The think tank stated in a blog post in January that “much of it is already allocated or earmarked for spending and a small amount is never going to be spent”. According to the blog post, around $ 775 billion of the “unspent” funds came from the $ 900 billion stimulus package that came into effect at the end of December. The expected funding (loans and Medicaid spending) and data delays over time also explain some of the differences.


“In fact, 95 percent of that money cannot be spent until 2022. Do you really want to wait until your child goes back to school until 2022? This bill will actually delay the reopening of the school. This is insane. “- Mr. Scalise in an interview this week on Fox News.

“We have to understand and follow science and get the kids back to school. This calculation doesn’t do that. “- Mr. McCarthy, in an interview this week on Fox News.

It is misleading. The bill provides $ 128.5 billion to fund K-12 schools through the Primary and Secondary School Emergency Fund. The Congressional Budget Bureau estimated that $ 6.4 billion of this would be spent in fiscal 2021, which ends in September.

However, the Budget Office also said that the estimated spending ratio was “subject to significant uncertainty”.

In a letter to congressional leaders, the education groups wrote that the notion that schools would not need additional funding due to the size of their spending this year was “imprecise”.

“In speaking with our respective memberships, they report that the ‘spending ratio’ seems quite low for those unfamiliar with the financial procedures and requirements of state and regional schools, but they have budgeted every dollar they get from the Covid -Auxiliary bills are to be received and are still anticipating larger costs that they cannot cover without additional federal funding, ”the groups wrote.

A spokeswoman for Mr McCarthy also noted that the bill “gives no assurance to families that schools will reopen” and that funding is not tied to school reopening.

Nothing in the bill specifically delays the reopening of the school, nor does it require funding for the reopening. However, a spokesman for the House Education and Labor Committee noted that this was never intended.

“Our position has always been that these decisions should be made by local school districts in consultation with public health officials,” said Joshua Weisz, the committee’s communications director. “Congress shouldn’t force schools to reopen.”


“If we don’t get the American bailout plan through, 40 million Americans will lose their food aid through a program we call SNAP, the old grocery stamp program. Aren’t we investing $ 3 million – $ 3 billion to save families from starvation? – Mr. Biden on a remark last week at a Pfizer plant.

That’s an exaggeration. noted that the transcript of Mr Biden’s remarks at the White House added “some” in brackets before the words “nutritional aid”. That’s because breaking the bill wouldn’t cause Americans who rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to lose all of their benefits. Rather, the stimulus package signed in December temporarily increased the benefits of grocery stamps by 15 percent from January to June. Mr Biden’s current bill and plan would extend that increase through September.


“For example, if it – if we incrementally increased it – if we indexed it at $ 7.20, if we indexed it through inflation – people would be making $ 20 an hour now.” – Mr Biden at a CNN City Hall event last week.

Not correct. The federal minimum wage was last raised to $ 7.25 in July 2009, which if indexed for consumer inflation would be around $ 8.81 today. Mr Biden most likely wanted to say “labor productivity” instead of inflation. Dean Baker, an economist at the Left Center for Economic and Policy Research, has estimated that if the minimum wage had kept pace with productivity, it would be around $ 24.

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