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Budget office puts virus relief bill cost at $1.8 trillion

Gladys Vega, left, executive director of Chelsea Collaborative, Inc., works with volunteers and staff members to unload a truckload of donated food to re-supply a pop-up food pantry while wearing masks out of concern for the coronavirus, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Chelsea, Mass. The food pantry has been in place for about three weeks and provides food donated by local businesses. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) (Steven Senne, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

WASHINGTON – The massive coronavirus relief bill passed virtually unanimously by Congress last month is estimated at costing taxpayers $1.8 trillion — slightly less than the $2.2 trillion informally projected at the time by the White House.

That’s according to the Congressional Budget Office, which says the difference is due to scorekeeping on $454 billion provided to back trillions of dollars in guaranteed loans by a Federal Reserve emergency lending facility, which won’t have a deficit impact since the income and costs stemming from that lending are expected to offset each other.

The CBO report comes as Washington is manuevering over replenishing a popular “paycheck protection” program with another $250 billion.

Most of the federal deficit impacts of the $1.8 trillion coronavirus relief act would come in the 2020 budget year ending Sept. 30, with the legislation projected to add $1.6 trillion to that year's deficit tally. The deficit for 2020 was already heading well above $1 trillion and is certain to shatter the previous record of $1.4 trillion recorded by the Obama administration in the aftermath of the Great Recession of more than a decade ago.

The recently-passed measure contains $377 billion for the paycheck subsidy program, $293 billion for $1,200 direct payments to most Americans, $150 billion for state and local governments, and $268 billion for more generous unemployment benefits, among other costs.

The CARES legislation is by far the largest of three coronavirus relief bills passed this year.