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How to Fix the COVID-19 Stimulus Payment Problem

The financial response to the Covid crisis demonstrated the inability of the federal government to rapidly get money to people during times of crisis. It took between three weeks and three months for Americans to receive a single penny of their emergency impact payments, aka the Covid stimulus. These delays impose significant hardship and costs on those most dependent on emergency funds, undermining the payments’ economic and social impact in a deeply regressive fashion. This problem is easily solved, just not in the manner frequently proposed. The solution is three-pronged:

  1. Accounts: Americans need to have accounts to receive funds.
  2. Information: The federal government needs to have the information to match people to their account.
  3. Infrastructure: The payment system’s infrastructure must be able to rapidly transmit funds from the government to people.

This paper examines each of these prongs and proposes solutions that address the gaps in each of them.