As the coronavirus pandemic upended life in the U.S. and across the world over the past six months, economists have credited the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, with keeping many American families, and the economy at large, afloat.

The record $2 trillion bill provided hundreds of billions of dollars in extra food aid, enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus checks for workers and their families, including expanding unemployment insurance to millions of workers who previously would not have qualified. It also provided loans to small businesses struggling during lockdown orders and kept some workers on payrolls.

The results: Americans set an all-time-high savings rate in April. And though a record number of Americans were out of work, poverty actually decreased slightly compared to 2019, thanks to the CARES Act’s generous safety-net provisions.


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