COVID Relief: Where Did All That Money Go?

One year ago, Americans began getting far more first-hand experience with a viral epidemic than any wanted.

One year later, the U.S. government has spent $6 trillion to provide relief from the coronavirus pandemic.

Of that total, $37 billion was spent on Operation Warp Speed’s development of several vaccines. The vaccines are the main benefit that Americans will receive out of $6 trillion of COVID relief spending. That’s because once enough Americans have been vaccinated, the threat of the coronavirus will dissipate. Life can and will go back to normal.

The Operation Warp Speed vaccines, therefore, account for 0.6% of the total cost of COVID pandemic relief, but the lion’s share of the benefits for Americans.

Where Did the Other 99.4% of the Money Go?

By and large, most of the other money goes to cover the cost of mistakes made by state and local politicians. Specifically, because of the lockdown measures they adopted.

The lockdowns they mandated cost millions of people their jobs. The lockdowns they imposed wrecked entire industries. The lockdowns they promised would save lives, but which have yet to show they have, despite having had a year to prove it. The lockdowns require a massive bailout by the federal government to cover the cost of their ongoing damage.

In trying to compensate for those mistakes, the federal bailout has been wasteful. More than $200 billion is suspected to have been lost to unemployment fraud. If you dig deeper, as in California, you find state government bureaucrats enabled that fraud on a massive scale. Multiplied across the nation, unemployment fraud has been five times more costly than the entire cost of the Operation Warp Speed vaccine program.

But there’s more to wasteful spending than just fraud.

The Scale of Spending and Waste

The Foundation for Economic Education’s Brad Polumbo describes the scale of the federal government’s COVID spending and where it is being spent with the least benefit:

The sheer immensity of this spending is hard to grasp. For context, $6 trillion is more than one-fourth of what the US economy produces in an entire year, according to Fox Business. The COVID spending blowout is at least eight times bigger than the (inflation-adjusted) price tag of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal.”

Moreover, the COVID spending bills have all lost huge sums of money to unrelated carve-outs, politician pet projects, corporate bailouts, fraud, waste, and worse.

In the latest $1.9 trillion package, more than 90 percent of the spending is not directly related to containing COVID-19. Only 1 percent of the money, about $15 to $20 billion, is spent on vaccines. Meanwhile, hundreds of billions go to bailing out poorly managed state governments’ budget holes that predate the pandemic and $86 billion rescues failing pension plans. Meanwhile, billions more go to Obamacare expansion and subsidizing public schools long after the pandemic.

And that’s just scratching the surface.

Polombo estimates the federal government’s $6 trillion in COVID spending could have $18,181 checks for each individual American. How much did you and the rest of the members of your household receive in COVID aid and benefits?

If it’s less than $18,181 per person in your household, you’ve been shafted. Much of the money your household isn’t getting is benefiting the people who did the most damage requiring relief. Shouldn’t we get accountability from them in return for the disproportionate rewards they are now receiving for their lockdowns?

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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