OMAHA – Federal COVID relief dollars helped to stabilize the Nebraska economy according to the Nebraska Economic Recovery Dashboard, a joint project of the Planning Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature and the UNO Center for Public Affairs Research (CPAR).
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government offered a range of stimulus programs to bolster the economy, including direct cash payments to individuals and families, pandemic emergency unemployment assistance, and the Paycheck Protection Program for businesses.
Close to 65% of eligible small businesses in Nebraska received Paycheck Protection loans, resulting in an injection of more than $3 billion in federal relief dollars into the Nebraska economy. For comparison, 63% of eligible businesses received loans in Iowa, 49% in Missouri, and 65% in Kansas. While the funds helped to keep unemployment low in Nebraska compared to other states, there was still a dramatic spike in unemployment numbers that has not returned to pre-COVID levels locally or nationally.
Those who did go on unemployment were offered expanded assistance from the CARES Act for a few months. When looking at data on income trends, the impact of these dollars becomes clear. Using data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the dashboard shows that total personal income increased in the 1st and 2nd quarters of 2020. However, overall earnings showed a downward trend, as did farm earnings and income received from dividends, interest, and rent. The driver of the increase in personal income was a category called current transfer receipts, which captures two of the federal stimulus programs: direct cash payments to individuals and unemployment benefits.
According to Josie Schafer, Director at CPAR, “It is clear that stimulus funds had the intended stabilizing effect on the Nebraska economy.” However, as the pandemic continues and current stimulus discussions at the federal level of government stall, the future of the Nebraska economy is uncertain.
Senator Tony Vargas, who is the Chair of the Legislature’s Planning Committee, which works collaboratively with Dr. Schafer and CPAR, agrees. “We continue to experience a rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. It is critical that we take proactive steps to support businesses and working families as we prepare for a second wave of impact to our economy.”
The dashboard can be accessed at cpar.unomaha.edu/policy. All data is freely available for public, journalistic, and other uses with proper attribution.
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