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Many in U.S. shoring up finances

WASHINGTON >> It’s the paradox of a pandemic that has crushed the U.S. economy: 12.9 million lost jobs and a dangerous rash of businesses closing, yet the personal finances of many Americans have remained strong — and in some ways have even improved.

A poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 45% of Americans say they’re setting aside more money than usual. Twenty-six percent are paying down debt faster than they were before the corona­virus pandemic. About half of Americans say they’ve either saved more or paid down debt since the outbreak began.

The findings highlight the unique nature of the current crisis. Nearly $3 trillion in government aid in the form of direct payments, expanded jobless benefits and forgivable payroll loans. Meanwhile, health fears and closures prompted many to spend less on restaurant meals, clothing and travel.

About two-thirds say they’re spending less than usual during the pandemic. Since February, there has been a $1.3 trillion jump in money kept in checking accounts — a 56% increase tracked by the Federal Reserve. While the greater savings helps to keep families more financially secure, it may also limit the scope of recovery in a country that relies on consumer spending for growth.

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