COVID-19 Stimulus Checks: How the U.S. Compares To Other Countries

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As the debate around stimulus checks rages – whether they are being delivered competently, when people can expect Congress to agree on a package for more and why Trump did not include them in his executive orders – many Americans are eying other countries’ economic relief packages and often with envy.

However, some of the figures being thrown around are misleading and other circumstances, including how well the pandemic is contained, have affected countries’ economic responses.

To date, U.S. residents should have received one $1,200 check per individual with an additional $500 per dependent, according to the agency’s website. But the Internal Revenue Service has received heavy criticism for several gaffes around the delivery (or lack thereof) of these checks and with deaths resurging (the U.S. has the most cases at 5,101,260 and the most deaths at 163,015, according to the New York Times coronavirus dashboard), the proverbial light at the end of the pandemic tunnel seems once again farther away.

Here’s a look at five different countries and how they are trying to limit economic harm from the pandemic with stimulus packages:

Figures are estimates based on reporting in August.


1. Britain Is Paying Laid-Off Workers 80% Of Their Wages

According to Forbes, back in March, the United Kingdom passed measures to pay up to 80% of the wages (for up to the equivalent of $3,000) for those employees laid off due to coronavirus-related shutdowns. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also produced a $400 billion stimulus package for the country’s small businesses.

The decision came down after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had somewhat downplayed the potential danger of the virus, even jokingly saying that a company focused on building more ventilators might become known as “Operation Last Gasp,” Politico EU reported. However, when he contracted the virus in March and was hospitalized, he was sobered.

“It was hard to believe that in just a few days my health had deteriorated to this extent,” he said, according to reporting from NPR. Johnson changed course, warning the British people that the virus was serious. He also closed “all cafes, pubs restaurants and bars … nightclubs, gyms and sports centers,” Forbes reported.

Britain has been one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic (coming in 4th in the number of deaths), with a total of 311,600 cases and 46,526 deaths, according to the New York Times coronavirus dashboard.


2. Brazil’s Economic Payments Have Not Emphasized Individuals

Brazil has recently become one of the newest frontiers in battling the pandemic with a serious spike in both cases and deaths taking place there. The government has responded economically by pumping millions into a potential vaccine, personal protection equipment and small business aid, according to the Americas Society Council of the Americas.

According to the Americas Society Council of the Americas, Brazil’s policy has changed over time. On April 7, the government announced that workers would be able to withdraw $200 in June and added $4 billion in the workers’ severance fund to keep it funded. In May, President Jair Bolsonaro vetoed a Senate-approved attempt to expand the country’s emergency universal basic income plan to the equivalent of $109.

In June, Economy Minister Paulo Guedes said that the government would hand out $112 in monthly emergency checks to informal workers and unemployed people in four installment payments, the Americas Society Council of the Americas reported. The Financial Times speculated in August that leaders may increase average benefits to $44 in a universal basic income program. However, it is unclear what, if any, economic measures the Brazilian people are regularly receiving.

The country has been plagued by allegations of corruption in who is receiving coronavirus supply contracts as well as a president who was controversially seen celebrating his soccer team’s win as the country’s number of coronavirus-related deaths reached 100,000, Axios reported.

Brazil, with its recent spike of cases, is second with the most total deaths with roughly the same amount of people dying in the past week (a little over 7,000) as the U.S. The country has a total of with 3,057,400 cases and 101,752 deaths, according to the New York Times coronavirus dashboard.


3. Italy Is Paying What It Can Despite A Struggling Economy

In May, Italy had approved the equivalent of a $59.6 billion stimulus package for businesses and families in economic crisis, Reuters reported. The bill would pay 400-800 euros ($469-939) per month for two months for those not eligible for welfare and who had no income.

According to Business Insider, Italy had announced that it was giving self-employed and seasonal workers the equivalent of $650, and the website received so much traffic that it crashed; the measure, which was enacted in April, was trying to handle one hundred people applying per second, The Local reported.

The country, which already had a weak GDP, Forbes reported, has been dealing with food insecurity and an increase in poverty, The Local reported. The government had passed a $28 billion emergency package on health, small businesses, mortgage relief and other measures to combat those issues in March. In May, Breugel reported that the country passed a bill worth billions for tax and rent credits, as well as other measures:

(a) All workers: Freezing of layoffs for all workers for two months, independently on the type of contract, where the layoff was opened after February 23rd, including layoffs for economic reasons; (b) All workers: Extension of (various) unemployment insurance mechanisms for all sectors, regions, and employees (9 weeks); (c) Self-employed: €600 bonus for self-employed and autonomous workers; (d) All workers not-working-from-home: €100 salary bonus in March to all workers not in smart working, cap of income of €40000; (e) Working parents: €600 bonus

Italy was one of the first European countries hit hard by the coronavirus (coming in 6th in deaths despite being much smaller in population than other countries with high death rates) and has a total of 250,825 cases and 35,209 deaths, according to the New York Times coronavirus dashboard.


4. Canada Is Paying People Up To $1,400 Per Month To Stay Home

Many on social media have been up-in-arms about the comparison being made to the U.S.’s one-time payment of $1,200 to Canada’s $2,000 per month payments. However, it’s important to note that the “$2,000” figure is in Canadian dollars, which is actually equivalent to $1,400 ( The following figures are all in U.S. dollars). Also, $1,400 is the maximum people are eligible for, which means not everyone is receiving it.

Business Insider reported that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would provide the following residents 15 years old and up with the chance to apply for up to $1,400 in direct monthly payments for four months (eligibility was expanded from only those laid off to those anyone making up to the equivalent of $750 per month). Trudeau also said that he would increase the salaries of essential workers who make less than $1,875.80 per month, spending the equivalent of about $2.2 billion to do so.

Canada has managed its virus fairly well and especially when comparing its population size (nearly 38 million, the Daily Hive reported) to its rate of deaths (coming in 17th in deaths), with 120,132 cases and 8,987 deaths, according to the New York Times coronavirus dashboard.


5. South Korea Made An $816 Emergency Payment

Aljazeera reported that in March, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that an “emergency disaster relief payment” of the equivalent of $816 (figures originally in won) would be made to those in the bottom 60% of income; the measure would cost about $7.4 billion, Reuters reported.

Reuters reported that the country had already put in place several measures to reduce the economic burden of the pandemic, cutting interest rates and providing a roughly $82 billion rescue package for companies.

Then in June, South Korea announced that it was unveiling the equivalent of a $28.8 billion economic stimulus package, CNBC reported.

Although the country has received worldwide praise for containing the pandemic effectively and keeping the number of deaths low, BBC reported that the country (like multiple other Asian countries) fell into a recession due to a lack of exports and high spending on mitigating the pandemic’s negative economic effects.

According to Reuters, the slide into recession has hurt Moon politically as well as the country’s ballooning housing costs. “When I got married (in 2015) I believed prices will go down…now everyone asks me why didn’t buy one when I could. It makes me anxious, but there is nothing I can do,” said one lawyer whose three-bedroom apartment rent – which has doubled since 2015 to the equivalent of $15,200.20 – is now out of her household’s total income bracket of about $6,700-$10,000 per month.

However, Reuters reported that the country is expected to see the least negative economic effects of coronavirus in terms of GDP shrinkage (at only 0.8%) compared to the U.S. and Japan.

South Korea’s coronavirus response has been much praised due to the positive statistics from the country (and coming very low on the list of countries with the most deaths), with 14,660 cases and 305 deaths, according to the New York Times coronavirus dashboard.

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