Goodbye, coronavirus relief programs.
In less than three weeks, the last remaining coronavirus relief benefits created to protect tens of millions of Americans from hunger, evictions and financial ruin will end. Unless Congress can overcome their objections and pass another emergency relief bill in 2020, it could be weeks before new benefits can make it back in front of Congress for a vote. Those weeks would stretch on if Congress can’t agree before President-elect Joe Biden is sworn into office Jan. 20.
A bipartisan $908 billion bill at the center of the debate would provide four months of the $300 weekly bonus payments for unemployed workers along with more funding for enhanced unemployment benefits. The package also includes aid for state and local governments — a point of contention — additional funds for the Paycheck Protection programs and money to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, which was officially approved by the FDA Thursday.
Without that stimulus relief, here are the programs that disappear starting Dec. 26.
Next stimulus checks: What to expect
The federal $300 bonus weekly unemployment check
The average weekly unemployment benefit doesn’t always equal a worker’s earnings and typically ranges between $300 and $600. To help fill the gap, the CARES Act added a weekly unemployment benefit bonus of $600. When that bonus expired on July 31, President Donald Trump signed an executive memo paving the way for a smaller $300 weekly bonus (for a six-week period) with the expectation Congress would soon pass another relief package. That hasn’t happened, and most states have exhausted the six weeks of extra funding. The $300 bonus provision is set to end on Dec. 26, according to the president’s memo, and is expected to sunset unused.
More months of unemployment insurance
Keep track of the coronavirus pandemic.
Individual states handle unemployment insurance claims, determining if a person is eligible, how much they receive and for how long they can collect. Though it varies from state to state, the CARES Act extended the duration of benefits from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. Starting on Jan. 1, those additional 13 weeks provided by the federal government are gone.
Some states have already backfilled the void on their own, including increasing their benefit period up to 59 weeks, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Others, including Alabama, Arkansas and Utah, haven’t taken action on it, which could leave unemployed workers in those states without assistance as the new year begins.
Can Congress piece these programs back together before more damage is done? It’s a waiting game.
Money for contractors, freelancers and gig workers
Another initiative of the CARES Act, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, also known as PUA, provided economic relief to those who wouldn’t typically qualify for unemployment: self-employed workers, contractors and gig workers. The PUA is set to end Dec. 31, but most will receive their last check on Dec. 26. If the federal government doesn’t extend it, it will be up to the states to determine whether they will step in on Jan. 1.
An eviction ban for renters
The CARES Act provided limited protection on evictions by only focusing on homes backed with a federal mortgage loan or households that received some type of federal funding. The protections were then expanded in September by the Centers for Disease Control, which called for a halt on evictions for failure to pay rent. This order by the agency covered more households, including renters in 43 million households, but it also has an expiration date of Dec. 31.
Federal student loan deferral
Students who are paying off federal student loans also received a reprieve under the CARES Act, which gave them the option to defer their loan payments (and which paused the accrual of interest) until the end of September 2020. In August, Trump extended the deferment until Dec. 31. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced on Dec. 4 a one-month extension on deferments to Jan. 31.
On Feb. 1, loan serviceers will once again be able to charge interest on these loans and students may have to resume paying them off unless the servicers offer deferment options.