WASHINGTON — Since the $900 billion coronavirus relief bill, which includes $600 stimulus checks for Americans, was approved, memes and social media posts claim that the funding is also going to the Smithsonian Institution, arts and humanities groups and for foreign aid to Sudan, Ukraine and other nations.
Are millions and even billions of coronavirus relief dollars going to foreign countries and arts groups?
No. The coronavirus relief bill was part of an omnibus spending package enacted into law on Dec. 27, 2020, but none of the $900 billion in COVID-19 funding will go to other countries or to arts and humanities groups.
WHAT WE FOUND
Congress passed $1.4 trillion in 2021 appropriations and a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill in an omnibus package on Dec. 21, which President Trump signed into law on Dec. 27. An omnibus bill is a bill that consolidates several different bills to be voted on as a single provision, according to VoteSmart.org.
In this case, the omnibus legislation consolidated 12 appropriations bills, the coronavirus relief measure and spending authorizations for the year, the U.S. House of Representatives said in a news release.
The emergency coronavirus relief spending does not allocate any money to foreign nations or to any arts or humanities groups.
But the appropriations measures do, and although the dollar figures may be correct, the memes don’t provide context.
For example, the $1.03 billion budgeted for the Smithsonian Institution is $14.6 million below its figure for 2020 and $77.6 million below President Trump’s budget request, according to a summary posted by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, signed into law by President Trump in 2018, authorizes spending $1.5 billion, but the money goes to U.S. agencies to advance American interests, blunt China’s influence and forestall terrorism and cybersecurity attacks.
But even those expenditures are dwarfed by what the IRS has, and will, send to Americans in stimulus payments.
The total in the first round was an estimated $292 billion as of Aug. 28, 2020, says the nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation. A second round at half that amount would be $146 billion.