In December 2019, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was found in China. On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) finally recognized COVID-19 as a pandemic. Even today, the coronavirus pandemic still hasn’t subsided. One of the hardest hit countries is the United States, leading with the highest number of cases and deaths worldwide.
Many states issued stay-at-home orders as former President Trump declared a national emergency in March 2020. However, with much of the U.S. workforce unable to physically go to work, the economy started declining.
To alleviate the issue, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Act funded Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and loaning money to major industries. In addition, the Act also included other provisions such as direct stimulus payments to American citizens.
More in-depth, CARES is the largest economic stimulus bill passed by the U.S. Congress, only surpassed by the $2.3 trillion spending bill Consolidated Appropriations Act passed for the federal fiscal year of 2021.
The main provisions in the CARES Act in 2020 included relief to the businesses aforementioned and the healthcare industry: manufacturers, providers, and distributors. This consisted of additional funding for medical equipment, the inclusion of insurance and health plans to cover COVID-19 testing and vaccination, as well as a stronger response for future national health emergencies.
For individuals, the CARES Act allowed advance tax credits. Some of them give a certain amount to adult taxpayers and pay a smaller sum for each dependent child under 17. Due to a decline in steady work, the Act also included increasing unemployment benefits as well as waived part of college students’ loan conditions, and relaxed financial aid requirements for some time.
Despite lessening some of COVID-19’s harsher impacts on lower-income earners, the Act also resulted in a higher federal deficit. Another criticism of the bill was its lesser impact on small businesses and individuals not covered under its provisions. Nonetheless, the CARES Act did strengthen the U.S. economy in a way.
With such a large stimulus package, not all was smooth sailing. Today, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies are still apprehending criminals profiting from the pandemic stimulus. Many criminals falsely claim unemployment benefits or create a phony business to steal a significant amount of pandemic funds, ranging from approximately $2000 to over $4,300,000. Some used a variety of ways, like falsifying forms or even stealing identities to claim extra benefits. In all, money allocated by the government during pandemic times did not always make it to their rightful owners, and criminal acts tampering with pandemic aid diminished part of the CARES Act’s goals.