Coronavirus

Unemployment benefits: how many people will lose it after Christmas?

The CARES Act provides financial relief for those who lost their jobs during the covid-19 pandemic but when it ends on 26 December millions will lose that support.

Unemployment benefits: how many people will lose it after Christmas?
KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI AFP

As the number of cases continues to rise nationwide more regions of the US are being forced to implement, or at least consider, additional coronavirus restrictions. Health officials are predicting a bleak winter with prolonged economic hardship likely for millions of Americans.

The last major piece of financial support came with the CARES Act, which was signed into law in March. The $2.2 trillion package included funds to provide additional unemployment benefits for people who had lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

The scope of the jobless support included in the CARES Act ends on 26 December, Boxing Day, by which point all funding will have been exhausted. The Century Foundation estimates that around 12 million workers will be affected, leaving them without any specific coronavirus unemployment benefits until a new package can be agreed.

What did the CARES Act provide for the unemployed?

When President Trump signed the bill into law on 27 March it provided three main forms of unemployment benefits for those who had lost their jobs.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – The main source of financial support for the employed was the $600 additional weekly checks for anyone receiving unemployment benefits.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – The government hoped that the FPUC would sustain people for long enough for the economy to get back on track but the PEUC provided an additional thirteen weeks for those who had otherwise exhausted unemployment benefits.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) – This was the broadest of the three programmes included in the CARES Act and was largely aimed at those without regular contracted work. The PUA was essentially an additional unemployment insurance with broader eligibility guidelines to include the previously self-employed, contract, and gig workers.

How many Americans are currently unemployed?

As the case numbers continue to rise it seems likely that another wave of lockdown measures could soon be on the cards, following in the footsteps of Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers who has called upon residents to stay at home and has imposed a mask mandate. If the newest wave of the virus is not contained then we will likely see unemployment figures rise again in the near future.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the US economy has 10 million fewer jobs than it did in February. Further estimates suggest that over 25 million workers are still being hurt by the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, with the CARES Act the main financial support for those suffering.

The pressure is now on for the government to agree a new support package before 26 December. But with the President still engaged in legal battles over the result of the election the days appear to be slipping by without any progress being made. Many do not expect another large-scale package to be agreed until Joe Biden takes office in January but the President-elect is remaining hopeful that a deal can be struck.

“Refusal of Democrats, Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control. It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make. If we can decide not to cooperate, we could decide to cooperate," he said.