The Big Picture
Federal lawmakers have approved more than $5 trillion in recovery spending since spring of 2020 to reinforce health care resources, provide relief to families and stabilize the economy, according to data from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. That data shows at least $86 billion in federal spending committed to people and projects in Washington state by April 2022, with the Trump administration previously approving $2.5 billion in health and unemployment benefits.
The committee’s COVID Money Tracker allows you to search and sort through federal spending, such as the American Rescue Plan and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, or by state or industry. The tracker does not appear to include the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act money.
Richard Coffin, chief product officer at nonprofit USAFacts, recommends using the U.S. Treasury’s USAspending.gov tool to search for details on COVID-19 relief awards and contracts. You can also use the Advanced Search tool to narrow down awards by filtering for keyword, location or COVID-19 spending under the Disaster Emergency Fund Code.
Coffin wrote that allocations can be designated as “authorizations,” meaning approved in legislation; “obligations,” meaning directed to a specific use; and “outlays,” meaning dollars actually spent. He noted some of this spending data can lag by a few months, and it can be hard to track dollars after the first step in its allocation.
“The federal government is really good at telling you exactly where money goes in the first transfer (from the federal government to a company, local government, nonprofit, etc),” he wrote. “However, a huge part of the money the federal government transfers will go to another government that will then transfer it somewhere else.”
The federal Pandemic Response Accountability Committee provides a portal for searching business and health care relief awards, as well as an interactive map for exploring awards at the county or ZIP code level.
The Congressional Research Service also regularly updates its Resources for Tracking Federal COVID-19 Spending Guide.
Byerly-Duke echoed the caveat that federal data may identify the initial relief recipient without following the money down to subrecipients, or it may show payments to a company’s headquarters instead of the local community where the money is spent.
"It may be accurate,” he said, “but it may not be precise."