December 3, 2020
These 5 benefits go up in smoke without more stimulus money by the end of the year

5 benefits that will go up in smoke without more stimulus money by the end of 2020


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COVID-19 relief programs are running out fast. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

President-elect Joe Biden is set to take office after his Jan. 20 inauguration, but the pressure is on the House and Senate to come together now to negotiate what’ll be in a new stimulus bill — which is still expected to include a second stimulus check for up to $1,200 — and get it passed by Congress so it can be placed on a payment schedule. Assistance programs created with the CARES Act in March have been nearly drained, and unless new legislation is authorized, the extension of unemployment benefits and the weekly $300 bonus payment will expire at the end of this year. 

President Donald Trump added more aid in August when he signed four executive actions after the CARES Act provisions were depleted, and these final programs will lapse on Dec. 31. Leading economists agree more aid is needed. 

“We’ll have a stronger recovery if we can just get at least some more fiscal support,” Jerome Powell, chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Nov. 5, acknowledging that Congress has the power to approve stimulus funding. 

Read more: Everyone who has until Nov. 21 to claim their first stimulus check

However, legislators have competing approaches, and compromise has been slow to occur, if it’s been reached at all. Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, want a smaller bill with no stimulus aid for Americans, while congressional Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prefer a package with more programs, more funding and a second stimulus payment.

These key programs will expire by the end of 2020 without more funding.


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The extension of federal unemployment benefits

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.

Read more: Coronavirus unemployment: Who is covered, how to apply and how much it pays

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for those who wouldn’t typically qualify

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. 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.

The additional $300 extra unemployment check per week

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, 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. 27, according to the president’s memo, and is expected to sunset unused.

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Can Congress piece these programs back together before more damage is done? It’s a waiting game.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Eviction moratorium to protect renters and homeowners

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.

Deferments of federal student loans

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. On Jan. 1, loan servicers 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. 

For more information, here’s the latest status of stimulus negotiations, and here’s everything we know about the next relief bill.



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