COVID Money Tracker FAQs
What policies are you tracking?
COVID Money Tracker aims to track every major fiscal and monetary action taken by the federal government in response to the coronavirus outbreak and resulting economic crisis. This includes policies enacted through legislation, implemented through executive orders or agency decisions, or undertaken by the Federal Reserve. If you feel we missed a major action, please contact us to let us know. We are currently updating COVID Money Tracker weekly — both by adding new policies but also updating the amounts allowed, committed, disbursed, and recovered.
What does “Amount Allowed” mean and how do you measure it?
Amount Allowed reflects the maximum amount of gross financial support made available. Because policies are all structured differently, there is no single rule for how this amount is determined. For federal appropriations, the amount allowed generally equals the total “budget authority.” For increases in formula-based mandatory spending (entitlement programs) and tax cuts, the amount allowed generally reflects the peak estimate of cost; this may be higher than total ten-year cost if a policy involves deferring payments in some form. For federal loan programs, amount allowed reflects the amount of loan dollars that can be issued. And for Federal Reserve facilities and equity purchases, the amount allowed generally reflects the maximum announced size of the action. Some programs or policies effectively have unlimited allowed amounts — in these cases we assume the amount allowed is the most that has ever been spent under that action. In these and other special cases, our table includes a footnote with more information. Note that there is no uniform definition of amount allowed, so other estimates could differ from ours.
What do Net Disbursed and Amount Committed mean, and why are they combined?
Amount Committed reflects the portion of a given program that has been specifically earmarked for distribution to a final recipient. To be considered “committed,” funds must be further along in the process than simply being allowed by legislation. For example, a loan is committed when a specific amount is granted to a specific entity — even before the cash is received. On the other, we consider money to be disbursed when cash has literally been received by its intended recipient — for example when a business receives a loan, or an unemployment benefit is deposited in an individual’s bank account. Net disbursed represents the dollars disbursed minus any dollars repaid, recovered, or paid on a delayed basis. In many cases, sources allow us to track to track amount committed or disbursed, but not both. For that reason — and because the distinction between the two is often small and not meaningful — our top-line figures display “Amount Committed/Disbursed” based on the data available. If we are able to track both committed and disbursed amounts, we show both in detailed info boxes but use the more relevant of the two (generally the higher one) in the “Amount Committed/Disbursed” line. Note that there is no uniform definition of committed or disbursed, so other estimates could differ from ours.
Why is Amount Allowed higher than Deficit Impact and other reported numbers?
Amount Allowed is the total dollar amount of gross fiscal support provided by a particular program, initiative, or policy. Deficit impact generally represents the estimated net cost of a policy. Often the two are identical. However, deficit impact would be lower if estimators believe an allowed amount will not be fully spent, if they believe some or all will be paid back or recovered (as is the case with loans), or if the policy partially represents a deferral of some type (for example, a delay in tax payments). For example, we estimate the CARES Act allows $2.7 trillion of fiscal support but that $0.9 trillion of that will either be never spent (loan guarantees) or later recovered (loan repayments, tax deferrals), leading to a deficit impact of $1.8 trillion. Many have reported the cost of the CARES Act as $2.2 or $2.3 trillion — which is essentially a hybrid treatment that assumes the $1.8 trillion of deficit impact and incorporates the roughly half a trillion of loans and loan guarantees (mainly credit protection for Fed facilities). These estimates provide useful information, but we believe they are less comprehensive than either our allowed or deficit impact figures.
We use a variety of sources for our data — including official sources where possible and unofficial sources or our own estimates when necessary. We include all sources in the information boxes associated with each policy. In general, amounts allowed are taken from the dollars authorized, appropriated, or announced within legislation and other official announcements. When no maximum number is announced, we generally use Congressional Budget Office estimates — or in some cases our own estimates — of the maximum gross amount of funding for a program. Similarly, our deficit impact figure is usually based on official scores from the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation. When such estimates are not available or there is strong evidence that they are incorrect (for example, a program is on course to spend far more than the cost estimate), we use our own estimates. To estimate the amount committed and disbursed, we rely on official sources whenever possible — including data released from the Small Business Administration, Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve, IRS, HHS, Department of Labor, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC), and a variety of other agencies. We also track dollars as they are spent by reviewing Daily and Monthly Treasury Statements, CBO Monthly Budget Reviews, Federal Reserve Factors Affecting Reserve Balances, and real-time tracking from USASpending.gov. We supplement official data with our own estimates of how fiscal support has progressed over time. And in cases where little or no disbursal data exists, we estimate disbursal based on CBO projections of how support was likely to disseminate over time.
How detailed is your data? Can I look up how much money went to a specific business?
We aim to offer as much detail as we believe is usable, based on what is available. At the highest level, our data shows total amounts for all legislation, Federal Reserve actions, and Administration actions. At the most detailed level, we show dollars going to specific businesses, colleges, city governments, and other entities. And in between, we show spending by type, program, allocation, state, industry, or other criteria. We will continue to add further detail to our database over time.
Unfortunately, our current tool does not show individuals loans given under the Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, and some other programs. This is in part because not all of the data has been made available and in part because the current system is not designed for millions or tens of millions of rows of data. Instead, we will make this data available — when and if it exists — for download in an Excel format. We are also working on a supplemental tool that will allow users to explore entity-level grants and loans more easily.
Will you be adding more data in the future?
Our team is on the constant lookout for new data, both qualitative and quantitative, detailing actions taken by the federal government in response to the coronavirus outbreak. While we will be adding data on our own, if you have a specific interest or data source please feel free to contact us to let us know.
How do you track money returned to or made by the federal government?
Some of the federal support — especially but not exclusively from the Federal Reserve — will be recovered over time as loans are paid back, dividends and interest are paid, deferred or advanced payments are returned, etc. In general, we track these dollars as “Amount Recovered,” which displays in information boxes and is also subtracted from our “Net Disbursed” figure. In most cases, our “Amount Committed” figures are gross numbers and do not subtract repayments. We made an exception for returned or cancelled Paycheck Protection Program loans since those funds are immediately made available to be re-committed and because all official and unofficial data sources track PPP based only on the non-cancelled forgivable loans.
How often do you update your data?
Currently, we update our COVID Money Tracker database weekly. However, specific data within the database may be updated somewhat less often depending on how frequently new data is made available. Please let us know if any data on our website appears to be more than a week or two out of date.
Where can I download the full dataset?
The full dataset can be downloaded here in an xlsx file format. It can also be found at the bottom of the Interactive Table page.
Why can’t I see all the Paycheck Protection Program data?
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) data is available for download in both csv and xlsx file formats here. Because there have been over 5.2 million forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans issued to date, our current interactive interface is not built to be able to incorporate this amount of data in a useable way. Instead, our tool shows PPP data by tranche and by industry, and may soon sub-divide by state. We are working on a supplemental tool to allow easier exploration at the entity-level.
Can I see all the money going to my state?
Currently, you can see some but not all of the money going to your state. This includes the vast majority to money going directly to state and local governments as well as money going to colleges, medical providers, airlines, vaccine makers, and certain companies receiving Federal Reserve loans. We also show the distribution of Economic Injury Disaster Loans by state. However, most funds that go to individuals are not currently tagged by state — including Economic Impact Payments, unemployment insurance benefits, and various tax breaks. The Paycheck Protection Program and increased Medicaid funding is also not currently tagged by state. We hope to add state-by-state information for most of these programs in the near future. In the meantime, our supplemental PPP data contains information on all the Paycheck Protection Program loans in each state to every business identified by name (those that received loans above $150,000).
Do you include all the provisions from the American Rescue Plan?
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the American Rescue Plan will cost $1.84 trillion over the next decade. However, not all parts of the bill are incorporated into COVID Money Tracker. In particular, our tracker excludes the Butch-Lewis Emergency Pension Plan Relief Act, several Medicaid provisions unrelated to the COVID crisis, and various tax and spending offsets included in the bill. In total, COVID Money Tracker incorporates $1.87 trillion of allowed COVID relief at a net cost of $1.85 trillion.
I have a question not answered in this FAQ
Contact us and we’ll do our best to answer any further questions you might have.