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Were The Stimulus Checks A Mistake?

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Were The Stimulus Checks A Mistake?


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Pandemic-response stimulus checks to individuals may have helped fuel US inflation.

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US legislators sent a series of stimulus checks in 2020 and 2021 to millions of Americans at economic risk due to the coronavirus pandemic. But while that help did keep households and the economy afloat, it may also have been a case of too much for too long. Journalists Santul Nerkar and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux investigate whether the delivery and timing of the stimulus helped fuel 2022’s inflation. Their research sends a sobering message about how political demands tend to overtake economic logic, especially in times of crisis.


The COVID-19 pandemic compelled the US government to take action to save millions of Americans from economic ruin.

Facing the prospect of a severe recession, US legislators passed $2.2 trillion in aid in March 2020. Two more stimulus injections followed, one in late 2020 and another in 2021. In aggregate, the financial assistance was unprecedented.

Americans benefited enormously. The money helped workers through the crisis and enabled a record-setting economic recovery. The stimulus payments rescued close to 12 million people from poverty, reducing the poverty rate from 11.8% in the spring of 2020 to an estimated 7.7% in mid-2021. By 2022, the US economy was close to reaching its pre-pandemic level.

The massive ...

About the Authors

Santul Nerkar is a copy editor and Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight, an ABC News media outlet focused on opinion poll analysis, politics and economics.

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