June 10, 2020

The Gap Between Federal Spending and Revenues Has Grown Rapidly During the Pandemic

The economic disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the federal government’s response to it has widened the gap between federal outlays and revenues. The growth in outlays has been driven by legislative actions, particularly provisions in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act such as Economic Impact Payments, the Paycheck Protection Program, and additional unemployment compensation.

At the same time, revenues have fallen largely due to a sharp decline in economic activity, recently enacted legislation, and administrative actions including postponing the tax-filing deadline. While much of those deferred revenues will be collected in the future, some will be permanently lost due to businesses becoming insolvent and individuals losing their jobs.

The gap between revenues and outlays has grown substantially during the pandemic


The rapid increase in the gap between revenues and outlays is not surprising given the devastating effects of the pandemic and the necessary fiscal response. However, the underlying structural gap is an issue that lawmakers will need to consider once the crisis has abated.

Related: What Role Has Federal Debt Played in the Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images


Understanding the Coronavirus Crisis

Key fiscal and economic indicators as the nation responds and recovers.

National Debt Clock

See the latest numbers and learn more about the causes of our high and rising debt.