I've heard stories about the stimulus checks that the government is giving to the US people. I've heard that sometime in the future, the US citizens are going to have to pay the government back for the stimulus checks. I've also heard that we won't have to pay them back. I'm wondering which of these stories is the truth. Are we going to have to pay the government back for the stimulus checks or not?

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    If you’re asking about the stimulus checks specifically, the answer is no. They’re grants, not loans. If you heard a specific claim that they were loans and people would have to pay them back, you should ask about that on Skeptics. More likely, those people were talking more generally, in that these stimulus payments increased the deficit and at some point the US government (and by extension US citizens) will have to pay that money back.
    – divibisan
    May 24, 2021 at 14:13
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    @divibisan in the end the stimulus checks are paid for through tax money and thus will be repaid by tax payers. In reality of course they'll probably just end up increasing the national debt and inflation levels, but taxes are the usual way that governments pay for their expenses.
    – jwenting
    May 26, 2021 at 12:14

3 Answers 3


It depends on what one means by "we" and "pay the government back for the stimulus checks".

The stimulus are not loans, so recipients don't have to pay the government back directly, like one would with, say, a student loan.

However, the stimulus checks have been so far paid for by increased government debt, which means that taxes that we pay will go towards servicing that debt and its interest. Increased government debt will eventually result in either increased taxes, decreased spending/services or inflation via money supply increase (which means one's money buys less).

So the true answer is jedi hand wave "it depends on your point of view".

  • Wasn’t the CARES Act funded by literally printing money instead of issuing debt per se? May 25, 2021 at 17:57
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    @JonathanReez: I'll have to check, but I was the impression it was debt, hence the proposal for increased business taxes and taxes on those making over 400k. Note that "literally printing more money" (and its not literally, because most money is credit now, via banks and FED) is one of the ways to service debt, but leads to inflation (if all else is equal).
    – sharur
    May 25, 2021 at 18:46
  • @JonathanReez This would be impossible because Congress does not control the supply of money in the United States. Monetary policy is set by the Federal Reserve.
    – Joe
    May 25, 2021 at 22:33
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    @Joe: This begs the question of "what is money"? Because Congress does technically control the supply of money (the US Mint answer to them); however, as I mention the FED (and arguably individual banks as well, due to fractional reserve banking) control the amount of credit that is available, which we currently treat as money.
    – sharur
    May 25, 2021 at 23:40
  • @sharur Currency and money are not the same thing. The US Mint makes currency, it does not make money. Currency is merely a physical medium for money.
    – Joe
    May 26, 2021 at 10:09

No. The CARES Act and the December COVID legislation specifically made these grants, so they are not tied to tax liabilities, nor are they taxable.


Yes, all government debt is eventually paid down by taxation of the citizenry, or erased with a sovereign default. But it will be future generations, so like social security, not a problem for current generations.

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    "Future generations will pay it so it's okay" is a bad way to think about it. Besides, we don't have a time machine, so real goods and services can't be taken from the future. May 31, 2021 at 9:11

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