The COVID-19 pandemic led to the most significant infusion of federal aid to businesses and families in American history. But this pandemic wasn't the first time the government has stepped in to rescue a failing industry or the economy. From America's earliest days, the government has periodically recognized the need to step in to avert economic catastrophe.
Sound Dollar used information from government and news sites to look into the history of some of the biggest bailouts in U.S. history—from shortly after the country's founding to 2022's student debt forgiveness initiative—to see the different ways the country has addressed looming national crises.
Not all of these interventions have been of the same sort. Bailouts prop up failing industries or companies, such as auto companies or banks. Stimulus programs give Americans money to spend and pay their bills, staving off personal financial crises and stimulating the economy.
Federal relief is another category in which debts are written off to help companies and individuals. The scope of such measures has varied, with some single-company bailouts costing as little as $1.5 billion, while coronavirus relief has totaled over $4 trillion.
Read on to examine some of the most significant bailouts and relief programs in U.S. history.