LYNN NEARY, Host:
Sophia Koropeckyj was part of a team at Moody's that looked into the question.
SOPHIA KOROPECKYJ: If Congress does extend the benefits, then it will have a large increase on consumer spending.
NEARY: The Moody team tested the economic impact of a number of government programs, including making the Bush tax cuts permanent. They found that unemployment benefits have the biggest bang for the buck. For every dollar spent on unemployment, the economy gets back $1.61. The return on tax cuts is much smaller.
KOROPECKYJ: We only get a 32-cent impact for the loss to the treasury of the tax revenues.
NEARY: That's because people who benefit from tax cuts tend to be wealthier. So they might save the extra money. On the other hand, Koropeckyj says, those getting extended unemployment benefits have no choice but to spend.
KOROPECKYJ: They've likely depleted their savings, and this is really all the income that they have. And they have kids to feed, they have rent to pay, and there's a very, very high probability they're going to spend that entire amount that they get.
NEARY: And where do they spend it? In stores.
KOROPECKYJ: That initial infusion into the economy of the unemployment insurance benefits then reverberates through the economy, flows through the economy in a variety of ways, and so that, you know, $1 of benefits is magnified.
NEARY: That, says Koropeckyj, is how unemployment insurance boosts, rather than drains, the economy.
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