Given America's precarious social safety net, the government had to act fast to protect jobs and prevent millions of Americans from falling into poverty. In fact, at the peak of the pandemic almost 40 million Americans had lost their jobs, nearly a quarter of the 157.7 million people employed in the US. As part of the $2.2 trillion (£1.7tn) CARES Act, 159 million stimulus cheques of $1,200 (£950) per adult and $500 (£368) per dependent were sent out to individuals earning less than $99,000 (£78k) a year, while expanded unemployment benefits offered an additional $600 (£467) per week to unemployed workers.
A second COVID-19 aid package was signed off in December to the tune of $900 billion (£662bn), entitling households to an additional $600 (£441) per adult and $600 (£441) per dependent. Also included in the bill was an unemployment subsidy of $300 (£221) per week until 31 March 2021 for those eligible for support. President Biden has since unveiled a third $1.9 trillion (£1.4tn) package which was approved by the Senate on 6 March. When it's finalised this week the bill will provide a third stimulus cheque of $1,400 (£1,030) for eligible adults and also for their dependents, as well as $300 (£216) weekly federal unemployment benefit that will run until 6 September. The bill doesn't include a $15 minimum wage as it did originally after that element was opposed by some Democrats, in addition to Republicans, in the Senate.