States Have Spent Little of $150 Billion COVID Relief Fund

New York National Guard by The National Guard is licensed under Flickr CC BY 2.0
State and local governments have spent less than a quarter of the relief funds earmarked to help them fight the coronavirus, a recently released report from the Treasury Department indicates.

Funds from the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by Congress as part of the two-trillion-dollar CARES Act and meant to help defray public health costs, appear largely unused according to the Treasury Department's inspector general. Some states have used less than 5 percent of the funds earmarked for them, including states like New Jersey and Connecticut, which bore the brunt of early coronavirus cases.

The surprising revelation complicates states' claims that they need a hundred-billion-dollar federal bailout to ensure their solvency in the coming months. The question of what money, if any, states should receive in the next round of coronavirus stimulus is likely to be a subject of hot debate in coming weeks, and the inspector general's report challenges Democrats' contention that more money is needed, particularly compared with Republicans' proposal to free up preexisting and evidently unused funds.

The data indicate that the coronavirus relief fund is heavily undersubscribed throughout the country. Just three states—California, New York, and Colorado—have used more than half of the funds allocated to their state and local governments. By contrast, 23 states have used less than 10 percent of their funding, while 11 have used less than half. Of the nearly $2 billion earmarked for South Carolina, the state reports using just $763,000.