To pay for the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, lawmakers have turned to $200 billion in unused money from previous economic relief programs that Congress approved to combat the pandemic.
The proposed Senate legislation estimates that there is $53 billion in expanded jobless benefit money that can be repurposed. That’s because the economy has recovered more quickly than projections assumed and because many states discontinued their pandemic unemployment insurance payments out of concern that they were keeping people from rejoining the work force.
The bill would also claw back more than $30 billion in small business loan money and disaster relief funds that went unspent and $175 million for salaries and expenses that was dedicated to the Small Business Administration, which operated the Paycheck Protection Program.
Leftover funds from other defunct programs would also be reprogrammed. That includes $3 billion in relief funds for airline workers that was not deployed for salaries of airline workers.
And $353 million from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which was passed as part of the relief legislation that Congress passed in March 2020, would be rescinded if the bill is enacted.
To some fiscal watchdogs, the savings appear to be budgetary gimmicks.
Marc Goldwein of the Center for a Responsible Federal Budget said that only about $50 billion of the estimated $200 billion represents real cost savings. The rest, he said, amounted to “cherry picking” numbers and claiming savings from projected costs that did not transpire.
An analysis of the legislation by the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that the legislation could raise $51 billion in revenue over a decade.
The Congressional Budget Office is expected to release its projections early this week.