New price tag for stimulus: $814 billion

The Congressional Budget Office has revised its estimate of the cost of the federal stimulus.

By , Guest blogger

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    A sign announces a section of road work funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in the Denver area in September 2009. Last week, the Congressional Budget Office revised down its estimate of the federal stimulus to $814 billion, which is still up from the original $787 billion.
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Last week the Congressional Budget Office released updated budget projections — a treasure trove of information for budget wonks. For example, CBO released new estimates of the direct budget costs of the 2009 stimulus bill, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

CBO now estimates that ARRA will cost $814 billion from 2009 through 2019. That’s up from the original $787 billion estimate, but down from the revised, $862 billion estimate released in January.

Spending exceeded original expectations because both unemployment and food prices rose more than anticipated, driving up the cost of extended unemployment benefits and expanded food stamp benefits. On the other hand, spending estimates have come down because “recently enacted legislation rescinded some of the funds appropriated in ARRA and limited the period in which higher payments under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program [formerly known as food stamps] will be available.” (CBO did not update estimates for the tax provisions in ARRA.)

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For a discussion of why the $814 billion figure (formerly known as the $862 billion figure or the $787 billion figure) is not really the right measure of stimulus, see this post.

On a related note: Earlier today, CBO released an updated analysis of the economic effects of ARRA. It estimates that ARRA reduced unemployment in the current quarter by 0.8 to 2.0 percentage points. In other words, without the stimulus CBO believes that the unemployment rate today would be between 10.3 percent and 11.5 percent, not the 9.5 percent reported in July.

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