Recovery Act spending exceeds CBO’s estimates

By Jolie Lee
Federal News Radio

Spending of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds between February 2009 and September 2011 exceeded Congressional Budget Office estimates by $20.4 billion or about 4 percent, according to a post on the CBO Director Douglas W. Elmendorf’s blog.

Chart from the CBO Director’s blog post.

Higher-than-expected unemployment contributed to $23 billion more in spending in the 2 1/2 year period by the Department of Labor for unemployment benefits. Also, “after losing their jobs, many workers remained unemployed much longer than at any other time in recent history; those longer durations meant that people collected more benefits,” according to the blog post.


The Agriculture Department also exceeded spending compared with CBO estimates, by $11.3 billion. The difference occurred in the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP or formerly food stamps).

According to the blog, “ARRA temporarily raised the maximum benefit in 2009 and required that it stay at that higher level until routine inflation adjustments that would have otherwise been applied to the benefit exceeded that level. …. In 2010 and 2011, food prices rose less than we had expected at the time ARRA was under consideration; thus, there was a larger difference than anticipated between the maximum benefit amount set by ARRA and what that amount would have been based on the routine inflation adjustments reflecting actual prices. Consequently, the additional expenditures resulting from the higher maximum benefit set by ARRA were greater than CBO had estimated.”

Through September 2011, 78 percent of the expected total spending through 2019 has been recorded, according to the blog post.

In 2009, CBO estimated the total spending of stimulus funds would be $787 billion through 2019. This month, the estimate increased to $821 billion through 2019.