CORONAVIRUS

Unemployment benefits: how many people could lose the aid if not extended?

As winter closes in so too does economic hardship for millions of Americans as unemployment benefits dry up and covid-19 relief aid programs expire.

Unemployment benefits: how many people could lose the aid if not extended?
SPENCER PLATT AFP

Programs put in place to stem the economic freefall induced by the coronavirus pandemic are set to expire at the end of December. Congress and the White House have been unable to reach an agreement to extend these programs first implemented with the CARES Act in March. Since then attempts have been made to pass more stimulus for the US economy to keep the recovery going.

One of the programs the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was established to help people not eligible for regular unemployment such as gig workers and the self-employed. It provides up to 39 weeks of benefits. The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is a program to cover individuals who exhausted their regular state unemployment insurance providing 13 additional weeks of benefits. States typically provide 26 weeks of unemployment.

When will the coronavirus relief programs end?

Both programs provided the individuals eligible with a weekly payment of $600 from federal funds but will expire at the end of December if no action is taken to extend it. In addition to these programs President Trump signed an executive order to release FEMA funds in the form of the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) to provide $300 per week for 3 weeks extendible up to six weeks. Most states have exhausted those funds and like the other programs will expire at the end of December.

The numbers are staggering

By current figures there are around 28 million people receiving some form of unemployment assistance with approximately 15.4 million covered by funds from the federal programs. The number of jobless could rise in the coming months as covid-19 infections are on the rise forcing new closures like the one announced for indoor service at Chicago bars and restaurants set to go into effect on Friday.

Jack Frost is starting to nip

Compounding the pain and helping the virus spread people facing economic adversity may be forced on to the streets or into more crowded living conditions as the federal ban on evictions will also end after December. On top of this winter weather is already being felt across portions of the US making social distancing and airing out indoor spaces more difficult. With impasse in Washington and the election less than a week away any financial relief will be dependent on the outcome.