Coronavirus

Which benefits will disappear if no stimulus bill is passed?

If no stimulus bill passes in the next month, a ticking time bomb of essential benefits will expire before 2021, snatching away some American's lifelines.

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Which benefits will disappear if no stimulus bill is passed?
KEVIN MOHATT REUTERS

The first stimulus check was issued under the bill named CARES Act way back in March. Some of the provisions that bill accounted for are still benefiting struggling Americans, keeping some from hunger, bankruptcy or eviction, though the last few lifelines will expire completely come 31 December 2020. With the second wave of infections in the US in full swing, cases and deaths breaking records daily, it couldn’t come at a worse time.

There are five emergency measures that will be no more by 1 January 2021.

Bonus $300 unemployment benefits

The CARES Act actually made provision for a extra $600 in unemployment benefits which expired in July. Trump halved it and extended it for six more weeks, with the expectation that a fresh stimulus would be in the post soon. That hasn’t materialised and most states have long run out of the extra funding. The provision officially runs out 27 December.

Extension of unemployment benefits

The CARES Act extended jobless benefits from a limited duration of 26 weeks pre-pandemic, to 39 weeks. From 1 January those additional 13 weeks, propped up by the federal government will disappear.

Cnet say that 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.

Eviction protection for renters and homeowners

In September the CDC extended original CARES Act provisions which called for a halt on evictions for failure to pay rent. The order covered 43 million rented households but is due to expire 31 December.

Student loan freezes

Students paying off federal student debts got the option to defer payments including pausing interest accrual, until the end of December 2020. This includes an extension Trump made to the CARES Act. From January, as with many other provisions, it will be down to the loan servicers whether they begin charging interest again or offer another extension on deferments.

Extended qualification for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) was also a built-in protection under the CARES Act, that extended the qualification for jobless benefits to include the self-employed, contractors and gig workers. Guess when that one’s due to expire…31 December. States will make the choice from 1 January if they want to intervene.

How badly does the US need stimulus?

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute recommends that “Congress provide debt-financed fiscal support of $2 trillion between now and the middle of 2022, and then continue support on the order of $400 billion annually between then and the end of 2024, with a slow phaseout of this aid thereafter.”

With millions of Americans unemployed directly owing to the coronavirus pandemic and the last trickles of enhanced unemployment benefits due to dry up come 26 December, Josh Bivens explains that this plan needs to “first stop the economic bleeding and then repair the aspects that have been “rotted away” in order to rebuild a resilient economy.”