Roughly 12 million Americans will lose their unemployment benefits on December 26 when two major pandemic programs expire, according to a new report from the Century Foundation, putting an already fragile economic recovery at further risk as the coronavirus again surges to record levels.
▪ The two programs set to lapse are the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides benefits to self-employed individuals not eligible for traditional state programs, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which extends an extra 13 weeks of benefits to people who exhaust state benefits. In addition to the 12 million facing the benefits cliff at the end of the year, another 4.4 million people will have exhausted benefits from those programs before they expire.
▪ According to researchers Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti, only 18 states will provide supplemental benefits next year.
▪ Stettner and Pancotti said the “stakes are simply too high” for Congress to allow the two programs to lapse without extending the supplemental benefits or providing additional relief. “Without unemployment benefits and with savings badly depleted,” the researchers wrote, “families will be at high risk for food insecurity and loss of their homes, and many may be unable to pay for health care during some of the darkest days of the pandemic. The nation’s entire economy will suffer.
▪ The PUA and the PEUC aren’t the only pandemic aid programs expiring at the end of the year. A national eviction moratorium will end, as will forbearance on federal student loan payments and penalty-free withdrawals from 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement accounts. That’s not to mention the CARES Act programs that already expired over the summer, most notably an extra $600 per week in federal supplemental unemployment benefits.