“Congress is set to cut off 12 million Americans from the only thing holding them back from falling into financial wreckage and disaster,” says Andrew Stettner, co-author of a study from the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.
Two key programs authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES expires on December 26. One is the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program (PUA). This program provides jobless ait to freelance and gig workers. When the PUA expires, over 7.3 million workers will be without any assistance.
The other program is called the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). This program supplies about 4.6 million jobless workers an additional 13 weeks of jobless aid beyond the typical 26 weeks that states provide, according to CBS News.
The extra $600 a week in federal unemployment insurance assistance authorized under the CARES Act, ended in July. This and other federal programs has been credited with keeping many businesses and households afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, with coronavirus cases surging across the United States – many businesses are closing again or cutting back on hiring, cutting into the number of seasonal jobs usually available at this time of year. Stettner says, “We’re just careening into this huge cliff and it’s like it’s not even happening.”
Additionally, to make matters worse, a moratorium on evictions and a program to provide forbearance on mortgages are also scheduled to expire by the end of 2020.
Economists are waiting to see if this crisis for the unemployed will further setback the shaky economic recovery in the U.S. According to Oxford Economics senior economist Bob Schwartz, the end of federal benefits is going to provide a “real test” for the economy.
“With infection rates spiking throughout most of the nation, so too are more restrictions being put in place, setting the stage for the unemployment lines to swell again,” Schwartz wrote in a report. “Unless Congress extends [jobless benefits], a vital source of income for this distressed segment of the population would be extinguished.”
NPR.org is reporting that President-elect Joe Biden on Monday called for Congress to put differences aside and provide “immediate relief.”
“The refusal of Democrats and Republicans to cooperate with one another is not due to some mysterious force beyond our control,” he said. “It’s a conscious decision. It’s a choice that we make.”