U.S. Feb. budget deficit hits record $311 billion as COVID-19 costs, revenues rise

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government posted a budget deficit of $311 billion in February, a record high for the month and up $76 billion from the same month last year, as outlays to fight the coronavirus pandemic remained high, the Treasury said on Wednesday.

Receipts for February rose 32% from the year-earlier period to $248 billion, a phenomenon due largely to a $45 billion reduction in tax refunds issued during the month because the 2021 tax filing season started about two weeks later than in 2020.

Individual and withheld income tax receipts also rose by $9 billion, which a Treasury official said was due to tax withholding on increased unemployment benefits, along with increased hours worked at higher wage rates as lower-wage earnings languished.

February outlays also grew 32% to $559 billion, with the biggest increases for unemployment benefit-related costs and health expenditures. Both receipts and outlays were record highs for February.

For the first five months of the 2021 fiscal year, the deficit rose 68% to a record $1.047 trillion for the period, beating the previous record deficit of $652 billion in October-February of fiscal 2010.

(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Andrea Ricci)