Approximately 14 million U.S. workers are currently recipients of unemployment benefits set to end by the end of December. The benefits are from two separate programs. There’s a small chance that the programs can be extended if Congress passes another stimulus package. But the chances don’t seem very likely as coronavirus stimulus talks seem stalled between Republicans and Democrats.
Protective orders for homeowners, renters, and student loan borrowers are also set to expire. If Congressional aid isn’t approved, many Americans will be left without an income or a way to pay their bills. In the meantime, unemployment benefit applications are still rising, as are record coronavirus infections, which could shutter businesses once again.
Andrew Stettner, an unemployment expert with progressive think tank organization Century Foundation, said: “The risk to the economy right now is just too high to let people run out of these benefits.”
In March, U.S. lawmakers devised temporary protective measures for America’s unemployed workers through the CARES Act, a COVID-19 relief act. The act gave a $600 a week boost to regular unemployment benefits. That act expired in the summer. Two other parts of the act are scheduled to expire in just four weeks at the end of the year. There’s been no additional bill passed by Congress since March.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Fund helps freelancers, gig workers, and the self-employed. Those workers are usually not eligible for their state’s unemployment benefits. According to the U.S. Labor Department, nearly nine million workers received that aid in early November.
Another relief measure, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act, pays an unemployed worker up to 13 extra weeks of benefits beyond their states’ 26 weeks of benefits. Approximately 4.5 million workers currently benefit from the act, and the number is growing as the virus continues to rage.
Should the programs expire without additional measures, nearly half of the 20.5 million unemployed workers currently receiving benefits would lose their benefits.
Negotiations over another benefits package have been ongoing for months, to no avail. Democratic and Republican leaders haven’t budged from their negotiation positions. Dems have pushed for a $2 trillion stimulus, while Republican Mitch McConnell wants a smaller $500 billion bill.
But some Republicans want to extend existing unemployment programs. Senator John Cornyn of Texas tweeted that it would be “heartless” to let aid expire for millions of Americans.
Some workers who collect from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation will still receive benefits until next year. Some states having the highest unemployment levels have an Extended Benefits program to aid those workers. But, many states have refused to pay any more of the extended benefits, which usually allow for another 13 to 20 weeks of aid. Because of this, at least 411,000 workers in 17 states won’t be allowed to collect the extended benefits. The states included are Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Maine, Nebraska, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Wyoming.
By the end of December, only 18 states will be paying extended benefits to people who have been unemployed over the long-term.