This post was updated on December 8, 2020.
When Congress passed the Coronavirus, Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act back in March, most lawmakers and the general public thought it was necessary legislation for a temporary problem.
But now it’s December, the pandemic is still raging out of control, and many of the programs created as part of the CARES Act are expiring at the end of the year. Millions of Americans remain jobless, and crucial lifelines are about to be taken away if Congress and the White House cannot agree on new aid.
Millions to Lose Unemployment Benefits
The CARES Act was unusually generous in granting an extra $600 a week for four months — on top of normal unemployment benefits — and relaxed rules to allow benefits to gig workers and independent contractors. The $600 Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program expired in July.
Now, approximately 12 million workers face a devastating “cliff” on December 26 if Congress does not act. That includes gig workers in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and workers in the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program.
The PEUC provides an extra 13 weeks of unemployment benefits after a worker exhausts their state benefits. The hard cutoff in the CARES Act means those in the middle of receiving that additional coverage will not be able to continue for a full 13 weeks. Those benefits will simply stop.
Other Benefits Set to Expire
While the unemployment benefits are getting the most attention, there are several other benefits set to expire that will affect people facing financial struggles:
- Student loan repayment: Since March, the Department of Education has paused payments, set the interest rate to 0%, and stopped collections for unpaid loans on most federal student loans. These protections were set to expire on December 31, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced an extension until January 31, 2021.
- Eviction relief: An order from the CDC protects most American renters who are struggling financially due to the pandemic from eviction for nonpayment of rent. Landlords whose multi-family buildings are backed by federal mortgages also cannot evict financially struggling renters. These protections last until December 31. However, many states are putting their own stronger eviction protections in place, and many last into 2021.
- Foreclosure relief: Federal Housing Administration foreclosure relief on single-family homes will expire on December 31. If your mortgage payments are currently in forbearance, you may be able to extend that period for another six months.
- Early retirement withdrawal: The CARES Act authorized those diagnosed with COVID-19 or those struggling financially because of the pandemic to withdraw up to $100,000 from traditional IRA, 401(k), 403(b), and other certain retirement plans without paying an early withdrawal penalty. This expires on December 30.
What Can You Do?
If you are worried about losing any benefits under the CARES Act, the first thing you can do is contact your representatives and senators in Congress. It is your right to let them know how you feel.
The next thing you should do, whether you need eviction or foreclosure relief, student loan relief, or unemployment benefits you are entitled to, is talk with an attorney about your options. Even if additional unemployment benefits expire, for example, there may be other ways for you to use the legal system to address financial problems.