As coronavirus cases surge across the country and new stay-at-home orders threaten further damage to an already fragile economic recovery, millions of Americans will lose crucial federal benefits if Congress can’t come to agreement on a new round of stimulus legislation.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to gig workers, freelancers, the self-employed, and other people not eligible for traditional state benefits, will expire at the end of the year.
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which provides an extra 13 weeks of benefits to people who exhaust their state benefits, will end at the same time.
Forbearance on federal student loans will end on December 31, meaning that cash-strapped borrowers must begin making payments again in 2021.
The eligibility window for tax credits for businesses to cover paid employee sick and family leave for reasons related to Covid-19 will close on December 31, and the window for the employee retention credit, which subsidizes employers for keeping workers on the payroll during the crisis, will close on January 1, 2021.
Penalty-free early withdrawals from 401(k)s, IRAs, and other eligible retirement amounts (up to $100,000 and with a valid reason related to Covid-19) will end on December 31.
13.6 million. That’s how many people were enrolled in the two expiring pandemic unemployment programs as of October 24, according to data released last week by the Labor Department.
A handful of Federal Reserve programs that helped prop up investor confidence and stabilize a careening stock market in March are slated to expire on December 31, including facilities to purchase municipal bonds and corporate debt and a lending program for small- and medium-sized businesses. According to a recent report from the New York Times, the Treasury Department under Secretary Steven Mnuchin is under pressure from some Republicans to end the emergency measures on the grounds that the Fed and Treasury don’t have the authority to extend them without approval from Congress. That could have serious implications for a stock market that has only just recovered from major swings in the leadup to the election. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly pledged that the Fed will continue to support the economy for as long as necessary during the coronavirus crisis.
Ron Klain, President-elect Joe Biden’s chief of staff, called on lawmakers to pass additional stimulus legislation in the near-term in order to deliver relief to both individuals and state and local governments to help them cope with the rapidly spreading virus. “We need action during the lame duck,” Klain told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “There’s a lot of things that are going to have to wait until Joe Biden is president, but this is not one of them.”
After struggling for months to reach an agreement with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on the next stimulus bill, the White House will step back from negotiations in the coming days, Bloomberg first reported last week. That will leave it up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to take the lead on behalf of Republicans. Pelosi and McConnell last week doubled down on their most fundamental disagreement over the nature of the bill: Pelosi wants a broad, sweeping relief package while McConnell wants small, targeted legislation. There’s no indication that either leader is prepared to make major concessions, though McConnell has said that he would be willing to consider sending more money to states and cities—a major Democratic priority that Republicans generally oppose.