State exits from unemployment programs help raise $53 billion for infrastructure

States’ early withdrawals from federal unemployment programs in recent weeks are helping Senate lawmakers finance upgrades to the nation’s infrastructure, according to legislative text unveiled Sunday.

Twenty-six states, largely Republican, have pulled out of pandemic-era programs since mid-June. The American Rescue Plan offered federal unemployment assistance — which expanded the pool of workers eligible for benefits and raised aid by $300 a week — through Labor Day.

The state withdrawals and an improving U.S. economy will save the federal government $53 billion in 2021 and 2022, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis published in July. The Senate’s bipartisan legislation — the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act — cites the $53 billion as a source of funding. The bill, which costs $1 trillion, would allocate money toward roads, bridges, public transport, broadband, rail, water and airports.

The unemployment savings stem from a Congressional Budget Office cost estimate in March, when it analyzed the effects of the American Rescue Plan. “CBO projected that all states would participate in the programs until September,” Phillip Swagel, director of the federal agency, said in a July 16 letter to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz.