Coronavirus: U.S. budget deficit tops $3 trillion as 2020 fiscal year nears end

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed the U.S. federal budget deficit above US$3 trillion for the first 11 months of fiscal 2020, more than doubling the previous full-year record, the U.S. Treasury said on Friday.

The budget deficit for August was US$200 billion, matching the deficit in August 2019 but lower than the US$245 billion forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. However, US$55 billion worth of benefit payments were shifted into July because August started on a weekend.

The US$3.007 trillion year-to-date deficit was nearly triple the US$1.067 trillion deficit for the comparable year-ago period, spurred by a massive increase in government spending to battle the economic fallout from the pandemic.

The previous 11-month deficit record was US$1.37 trillion, reported by the Treasury in August 2009 during the financial crisis and recession. The full fiscal 2009 deficit totaled US$1.4 trillion.

Concerns about ballooning deficits have stoked opposition by some Republicans in Congress to spending trillions of dollars more on a new round of coronavirus aid programs. This has helped to stall negotiations between Democrats and the Trump administration.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has projected the full-year 2020 U.S. deficit to reach US$3.3 trillion, or 16 per cent of GDP, the highest share since the end of World War Two.

August budget outlays were US$423 billion, compared with US$428 billion in August 2019 and US$626 billion in July 2020. Labor- related outlays, largely unemployment benefits, fell to US$55 billion in August from US$110 billion in July after a US$600-a-week federal unemployment supplement expired on July 31.

Receipts in August were US$223 billion, compared with US$228 billion in the year-earlier period. While taxes collected from paycheck withholdings fell by US$11 billion from a year earlier, non-withheld tax payments were up US$4 billion due to a processing backlog from the delayed July 15 tax deadline, a Treasury official said.

Earnings from the Federal Reserve soared in August by US$5 billion compared with a year earlier from earnings on the Fed’s massively expanded bond holdings and lower interest payments on bank reserves.

The Treasury’s interest costs on public debt rose US$7 billion in August compared with a year earlier as borrowing expanded massively. But debt costs were US$53 billion lower for the first 11 months of 2020 versus a year earlier due to lower interest rates.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Paul Simao and Dan Grebler)

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