Census Figures Show Americans’ Incomes Fell in 2020

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/americans-incomes-fell-in-2020-census-figures-show-11631629285

Excerpt:

Americans last year saw their first significant decline in household income in nearly a decade, government data showed, with economic pain from the Covid-19 pandemic prompting government aid that helped keep millions from falling into poverty.

An annual assessment of the nation’s financial well-being, released Tuesday by the Census Bureau, offered insight into how households fared during the pandemic’s first year. It arrives as Washington debates how much more to spend to bolster the economy during the worst public-health crisis in a century.

Median household income was about $67,500 in 2020, down 2.9% from the prior year, when it hit an inflation-adjusted historical high. It came as the U.S. last year saw millions lose their jobs and national unemployment soar from a 50-year low to a high of 14.8%.

The last time median household income fell significantly was 2011, in the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession.

The Census Bureau’s topline income figure includes unemployment benefits but doesn’t account for income and payroll taxes nor stimulus checks or other noncash benefits like federal food programs. If those had been counted, the median household income would have risen 4% to $62,773.

Author(s): John McCormick, Paul Overberg

Publication Date: 14 Sept 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

The national debt is big and getting bigger. Does it matter?

Link: https://www.americanbanker.com/news/the-national-debt-is-big-and-getting-bigger-does-it-matter

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Excerpt:

The clock currently reads $28 trillion, give or take, and will grow rapidly in the coming years. The coronavirus pandemic has cost the U.S. economy $16 trillion, give or take, and Congress appropriated more than $3 trillion in aid in 2020.

…..

The United States has had an up-and-down relationship with debt. One of Congress’s first actions was to assume states’ Revolutionary War debt in exchange for moving the country’s permanent capital to Washington, D.C. Alexander Hamilton saw collective debt as a way to build the nation — and its international credit — and bind the several states together in common cause.

…..

“I believe it a national curse,” Jackson said in 1824. “My vow shall be to pay the national debt, to prevent a monied aristocracy from growing up around our administration that must bend it to its views, and ultimately destroy the liberty of our country.”

Jackson followed through on his promise, vetoing virtually every spending bill and using federal funds to pay down the debt until it was fully paid off in 1837 — right before a six-year economic depression that pumped it back up again.

World War II ballooned the debt as the nation ratcheted up defense spending to finance the war, causing the country’s debt to rise to more than 100% of gross domestic product. (Debt is usually measured as a percentage of GDP to make it comparable across different periods of time.)

Author(s): Hannah Lang

Publication Date: 3 March 2021

Publication Site: American Banker

Treasury Rescue Won’t Bail Out Chicago, New Jersey From Debt

Link: https://news.yahoo.com/treasury-lifeline-won-t-bail-190632365.html

Excerpt:

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Treasury Department is sending a message to states and cities that the billions in aid from the American Rescue Plan should provide relief to residents, not their governments’ debt burdens.

The department on Monday released guidance on how state and local governments can use $350 billion in funding from President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion rescue package. The funds are intended to help states and local governments make up for lost revenue, curb the pandemic, bolster economic recoveries, and support industries hit by Covid-19 restrictions. In a surprise to some, these funds can’t be used for debt payments, a potential complication for fiscally stressed governments that had already etched out plans to pay off loans.

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Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker had suggested using some of the state’s $8.1 billion in aid to repay the outstanding $3.2 billion in debt from the Federal Reserve’s emergency lending facility and to reduce unpaid bills. Illinois was the only state to borrow from the Fed last year, tapping it twice. On Tuesday, Jordan Abudayyeh, a Pritzker spokesperson, said the administration is “seeking clarification” from the Treasury on whether Illinois can use the aid to pay back the loan from the Fed.

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The rule could also affect New Jersey, which sold nearly $3.7 billion of bonds last year to cover its shortfall during the pandemic. Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick, a Republican, in April had called for Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, to use some of the federal aid to pay down the state’s debt.

Author(s): Shruti Date Singh, Amanda Albright

Publication Date: 11 May 2021

Publication Site: Yahoo Finance

States, cities to receive first chunk of $350 billion in aid this week from COVID stimulus passed in March

Link: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2021/05/10/local-governments-receive-billions-covid-stimulus-plan-may-11/5019387001/

Excerpt:

State, city and county governments this week will receive their first infusion of direct aid from $350 billion in emergency funds approved in the American Rescue Plan, two months after President Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 relief package into law. 

The Biden administration launched an online portal Monday that will allow local and state governments to access their share of funds from the Treasury Department. The amount allocated for each state and municipality was determined by unemployment data.

Most will receive money in two tranches – one this year, the second in 12 months – but states that have seen their unemployment rates increase by 2% or more since February will receive funds in a single payment. Payments will begin within days. Money must be spent by the end of 2024.

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The Treasury Department also provided long-awaited guidelines on how funds can be used. State governments and territories are prohibited from using funds to offset tax cuts that were enacted after March 3, limitations that have already prompted the Republican attorney general from Ohio to sue the Biden administration. In addition, recipients cannot use funds to make a deposit to a pension fund or pad reserves.

Author(s): Joey Garrison

Publication Date: 10 May 2021

Publication Site: USA Today

Households including most U.S. children to get monthly stimulus payment

Link: https://www.reuters.com/world/us/households-including-most-us-children-get-monthly-stimulus-payment-2021-05-17

Excerpt:

A poverty-fighting measure included in the COVID-19 relief bill passed this year will deliver monthly payments to households including 88% of children in the United States, starting in July, Biden administration officials said on Monday.

The Democratic-backed American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, expanded a tax credit available to most parents.

Those people will get up to $3,000 per child, or $3,600 for each child under the age of 6, in 2021, subject to income restrictions. The benefit will reach 39 million households, many automatically and by direct deposit every month, starting on July 15.

Publication Date: 17 May 2021

Publication Site: Reuters

Days Ahead Of First Federal Stimulus Payments, Local Governments Still Don’t Know How—And In Some Cases If—They’ll Spend The Money

Link: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizfarmer/2021/05/06/days-ahead-of-first-federal-stimulus-for-governments-lawmakers-still-dont-know-how—and-in-some-cases-if–theyll-spend-it/?sh=2abe348711d8

Excerpt:

The first round of aid for state and local governments is set to go out next week, but with no guidance yet on the spending rules, leaders are becoming increasingly frustrated.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included $350 billion in direct aid to states and localities and the law requires the U.S. Department of Treasury to distribute the first tranche by May 10. Since it passed on March 11, the department has been developing guidance on the spending rules with input from government organizations. The ARPA law says governments can use the money for public health crisis expenses and for budget deficits, but more specifics are needed because governments are required to track and report on their spending.

Now, with just days to go until the first round of aid is to be delivered, the rules still aren’t out and frustrations are mounting. This is particularly true for those governments who are receiving direct federal aid for the first time since the pandemic began.

Author(s): Liz Farmer

Publication Date: 6 May 2021

Publication Site: Forbes

U.S. Household Income Surged by Record 21.1% in March

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/consumer-spending-personal-income-march-2021-11619732790

Excerpt:

Household income rose at a record pace of 21.1% in March as federal stimulus checks helped fuel an economic revival.

The March surge in income was the largest monthly increase for government records tracing back to 1959, largely reflecting $1,400 stimulus checks included in President Biden’s fiscal relief package signed into law in March. The stimulus payments accounted for $3.948 trillion of the overall seasonally adjusted $4.213 trillion rise in March personal income.

Spending was also up sharply, increasing 4.2%, the Commerce Department said, the steepest month-over-month increase since last summer.

Consumers shelled out more on goods, particularly big-ticket items such as autos and furniture, compared with services in March. Economists expect that to change in the coming months due to widespread vaccinations and broader reopening of the economy.

Author(s): Sarah Chaney Cambon

Publication Date: 30 April 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal

Applications for New Businesses Have a Double-WTF Moment

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I don’t remember anything that has ever drawn so much fraud to itself, like an industrial magnet attracting ferrous scrap metal, as the federal government programs to support the unemployed and struggling businesses.

When it comes to this twin-spike in business applications, the forgivable Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster loans come to mind immediately – especially since the spike into July, and then the renewed spike this year, are timed with the two PPP generations.

Businesses that applied for the PPP loans had to submit documentation of wages paid over specified periods. The first-generation PPP program ended on August 8, 2020. The second-generation PPP program started this year and remains open.

The dates were structured so that it would be impossible by honest people to create a business entity after the announcement, pay wages for long enough to qualify for a PPP loan, and then apply for a PPP loan. Applicants had to submit historical wage documentation to the lenders whose job it was to check all this out.

Author(s): Wolf Richter

Publication Date: 16 April 2021

Publication Site: Wolf Street

How much will your city get from Illinois’ share of the Biden stimulus and how will they spend it? – Wirepoints

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Excerpt:

There’s little doubt that Illinois politicians are salivating over the $13.7 billion windfall they’re about to spend. Those billions are Illinois’ share of the $350 billion in aid dedicated to state and local governments, a key part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package passed earlier this year. The state of Illinois itself will get $7.75 billion and the remaining $6 billion will go directly to counties and cities.

The numbers are big. Take the city of Berwyn, Illinois, which is set to receive $32 million in stimulus dollars, according to a data release from the Illinois Municipal League. The city’s take is equal to a whopping 81 percent of its 2019 general budget. Peoria expects $46 million, or nearly half of its $100 million budget. And the city of Chicago will get nearly $2 billion, worth 60 percent of its general budget, based on financial data from the Illinois Comptroller. 

Even the state, which nearly broke even in revenues in 2020 compared to 2019, will get more than $7.75 billion, nearly a fifth of its budget.

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski, John Klingner

Publication Date: 13 April 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints

How much is your community getting under the American Rescue Plan? A searchable database for the nation is here – Wirepoints

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Excerpt:

Embedded below are a set of searchable databases that provide the estimated allocation of the $360 billion in direct government aid to states, counties and cities under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The remaining stimulus includes funding for schools and other programs, for which detailed data is not yet available.

The $360 billion is split as follows: State governments are set to receive $230 billion in direct and capital project grants, county governments will receive $65 billion, and municipal governments will receive the other $65 billion.

Author(s): Ted Dabrowski, Mark Glennon, John Klingner

Publication Date: 17 April 2021

Publication Site: Wirepoints

Peter Roff: Beware the Pension Bailout Hidden Inside COVID-19 Relief Bill

Link: https://www.noozhawk.com/article/peter_roff_beware_pension_bailout_hidden_inside_covid_19_bill_20210403

Excerpt:

California’s total estimated pension liability is something like $1 trillion. To balance its books, Sacramento had to get money from taxpayers in Florida, South Dakota, Utah and, other, better-managed states (through the COVID-19 stimulus) to close the gap.

Whether it will be enough to stop municipal fire departments from bringing private ambulance and medical services “in-house” is yet to be seen. Hopefully, it will — which would be a good thing for taxpayers and people in need.

Otherwise, the pattern of using federal reimbursements for services provided to cover the losses in underfunded public employee pension plans will continue, much to the determinant of taxpayers.

Author(s): Peter Roff

Publication Date: 3 April 2021

Publication Site: Noozhawk

Sorry, the Economic Crisis Is Over

Link: https://www.wsj.com/articles/sorry-the-economic-crisis-is-over-11617662226?mod=opinion_lead_pos2

Excerpt:

It’s getting harder for the Biden Administration to claim we’re in an economic crisis that demands more spending. It’s closer to the truth to say the economy is growing in a way that calls for spending and monetary restraint.

The latest evidence arrived Monday with the Institute for Supply Management’s news that its March survey for service businesses hit 63.7. That’s an all-time high, and it signifies rapid growth and optimism. The only problem is that many businesses say they can’t find enough workers or supplies to meet their order books.

That follows Friday’s blowout employment report for March, with a net total of 1.07 million new jobs including revisions from the previous two months. Wage gains were bigger than they looked at first glance, given that many returning workers were those in lower-wage services jobs hurt by the pandemic.

Author(s): Editorial Board

Publication Date: 6 April 2021

Publication Site: Wall Street Journal