Oct 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Where a potential Biden administration's stimulus money would go

Biden with cash in the background. Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Biden administration's top priority, after virus control, will be "building a fiscal bridge to the other side of the crisis." That's what Jared Bernstein, a senior Biden economic adviser, told an IIF conference this week.

Why it matters: Biden has a very large and complex Building Back Better agenda, which includes some 800 different policy proposals and will cost some $3 trillion. But before even getting started on that, the Biden team plans to spend a lot of money — probably north of $1 trillion — on a short-term stimulus package.

Between the lines: In the fight over a potential stimulus package, the Trump administration is refusing to funnel money to state and local government. By contrast, says Bernstein, that will be top of the list for a Biden economic stimulus, because it comes with a high "fiscal multiplier."

  • The Biden team is looking at "getting the biggest bang for the buck," says Bernstein. Giving money to state and local governments has a multiplier of about 1.5, according to the San Francisco Fed. In other words, every $1 given to those governments increases GDP by about $1.50.

Other priorities with high multipliers include nutritional support and expanded unemployment benefits.

The bottom line, per Bernstein: The "fiscal bridge" is going to be needed even if a new stimulus package is passed between now and January. So long as the economy is well below potential — which it will be — Biden will want up-front spending in January.

Go deeper