March 17, 2021

Where the money to states is going in the coronavirus relief bill

An article by the Hill, using data published by the House Oversight Committee, broke down…

An article by the Hill, using data published by the House Oversight Committee, broke down where that money was expected to go. Unsurprisingly, most will go to more populous states. Also unsurprisingly, residents of smaller states will get more per capita.

Before we dig into it, it’s worth pointing out that the funding is going to address a problem that ended up not being as bad as was projected. The New York Times looked at how state revenue from April to December of 2020 compared to the same period the prior year, finding that just under half of states ended up seeing increases in revenue for a variety of reasons. Nor were shortfalls a blue-state problem, as many Republicans have claimed over the past year. Instead, more states that voted for former president Donald Trump last year ended up with shortfalls than did states that voted for Biden.

The two states with the biggest decreases were Alaska and Hawaii.

Note that in the chart above and in the next two charts, the circles are scaled to population (bigger circles show more populous states) and colored based on their 2020 vote (more red means more support for Trump and more blue, more support for Biden).

So where is the money going? Again, the four states expected to take in the most from the relief bill are California, Texas, New York and Florida, in that order — the four most populous states in the country. You can see on the chart below how the amount of money being disbursed correlates to population: All the circles at the bottom are tiny because the states getting that relatively small payout are ones without many people.

If we adjust the chart to show how many billions of dollars are going to every million residents, the picture changes. Now it’s Wyoming that’s getting the most money, relatively speaking, followed by Vermont and Alaska.

Notice that three of the seven states that are getting the most per capita relief are ones in which state tax revenue increased. Of those three, two voted for Biden.

Again, these are simply estimates of how much money each state will get and the change in state tax revenue last year is only one factor driving the push for money being disbursed to the states.

Even with those caveats, we can say that this is not an overwhelming bonanza for states that supported Biden. Overall, those states will get $1.1 billion for every million residents, compared to $0.92 billion for every million residents of states that backed Trump. States with revenue decreases in 2020 will get $1.02 billion per million residents and those with increases will get an estimated $0.98 billion per million.

In that sense, at least, one broad intent of the legislation will hit the mark.