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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data on Americans' finances suggests the extension of enhanced unemployment benefits and direct payment checks would provide a significant boost to the economy.

Driving the news: A new report from the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Institute finds that the increased payments for unemployment "played an important role in maintaining household spending and wider macroeconomic stability."

What they're saying: "With a March 15, 2021 deadline on supplemental and extended jobless benefits approaching, policymakers should consider the important role these benefits play in supporting the spending and saving of jobless workers, given the limited impact they appear to have had on job search."

How it works: The report analyzed the impact of supplemental unemployment benefits on job finding, spending, and saving of jobless workers between April and July 2020.

  • It found that the $600 supplement "likely played little role in discouraging people from finding work."
  • "Rather, expanded UI boosted the spending and saving among jobless workers, many of whom are facing extended or repeated unemployment spells."

Where it stands: Using the bank's data, the JPMorgan Chase Institute found a strong correlation between the spending and saving of jobless workers and the availability of supplemental unemployment insurance benefits during the pandemic.

  • "We estimate that for every dollar of supplemental unemployment insurance, the median unemployed family has spent between 29 and 43 cents more than they otherwise would have."

There's more: A new report from data firm Morning Consult argues that sending $1,400 stimulus checks targeted to low-income adults and parents combined with enhancements to the unemployment benefit system "would prevent unnecessary financial hardship and mitigate future economic risks."

By the numbers: Morning Consult's data show that in January, 16% of U.S. adults said their expenses exceeded their incomes for the month, largely concentrated among low-income households. 

  • Americans with annual household incomes under $50,000 already spent roughly 67% of the money they received in the second stimulus. 
  • Among the 30.2 million adults who couldn't pay their bills, 75% fell short by less than $300, "an improvement from December that shows stimulus checks are bringing people closer to covering their expenses."

Yes, but: Both studies suggest that targeted benefits would be most effective, but neither directly states who should or should not receive benefits, a prime subject of debate given that some Americans who previously made high salaries remain unemployed because of the pandemic.

  • Other workers remain employed but have seen reduced wages and/or hours.

What's next: If $1,400 stimulus checks are sent on March 1, Morning Consult's data show the payments would allow 22.6 million Americans to pay their bills in full through the middle of July.

Go deeper: Unpacking the debate over whether too much stimulus can overheat the economy

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Feb 11, 2021 - Economy & Business

The stimulus debate: Is it too big?

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Can too much federal spending cause the economy to overheat? And is that a real risk of the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan? The consensus answers to those questions are yes and no, respectively.

Why it matters: Fear of inflation has emerged as the single biggest reason for Democrats and Republicans to oppose the latest round of stimulus. For the time being, however, most economists expect that inflation will remain subdued, even if the full package is enacted.

Airlines call for Biden admin's "immediate intervention" in 5G deployment

Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The CEOs of leading U.S. air cargo and passenger carriers on Monday warned the Biden administration there could be "catastrophic disruption" after AT&T and Verizon deploy a new 5G service this week.

Driving the news: They said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and other top federal officials ahead of the C-Band 5G service's deployment Wednesday that "the nation's commerce will grind to a halt" and "could potentially strand tens of thousands of Americans overseas."

Updated 3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

Thousands without power as "hazardous" winter storm lashes East Coast

Satellite imagery of the Northeastern U.S. taken by NOAA on Jan. 17. Photo: NOAA

A major winter storm lashed much of the East Coast Sunday and Monday, causing widespread power outages and disrupting travel over the holiday weekend.

The latest: Authorities in North Carolina confirmed that two people died in a car crash and that they responded 600 vehicle accidents during the storm on Sunday, per the Washington Post.