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Expiration of Unemployment Benefits: What You Should Know

Updated : November 27th, 2020

The pandemic-induced economic downturn has caused millions of Americans to lose their jobs. Due to the soaring unemployment rate, the federal government has announced various programs under the CARES Act, which provided financial assistance to millions of unemployed people. However, it is important to note that programs created under the CARES Act were only designed to give temporary relief and expire by year-end. 

This article will tell you when the federal programs will expire and what will happen post the expiration of unemployment benefits

When Will The Unemployment Benefits Expire? 

The CARES Act included several provisions such as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), etc. 

The federal government funded the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and provided an additional $600 weekly unemployment benefits to all the claimants. The program ended on July 31, 2020, leaving many people with benefits lower than $400.   

To help people meet their needs post the expiration of $600 benefits, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that provided $300 extra benefits for up to 4 to 5 weeks. 

Now, two more federal unemployment programs are nearing the expiration date: the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. 

The PEUC program was funded entirely by the federal government. It provided an additional 13 weeks of benefits to those who exhausted payments received through the regular Unemployment Insurance (UI) program. The program is payable through December 26, 2020.

On the other hand, the PUA provided benefits to the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors who otherwise do not qualify for unemployment benefits. The program is payable through December 26, 2020. PUA benefits last for 39 weeks in all states and 46 weeks in a subset of high unemployment states.

What Will Happen With The Expiration Of Unemployment Benefits? 

On the PUA and PEUC program’s expiration, an approximate 7.3 million workers will see their PUA benefits ending on December 26, and 945,000 people before December. And about 4.6 million workers will see their PEUC benefits ending on December 26. That is, a total of 12 million workers not receiving federal benefits post-December 26, 2020. The ending of unemployment benefits could push many households into poverty and hinder economic recovery.

Andrew Stettner, an expert at the Century Foundation, stated, “The financial support from government stimulus programs has been credited with keeping many businesses and households afloat as they coped with the fallout from COVID-19 and nationwide shutdowns. The upcoming benefits cliff may prove to be another shock to households and the economy.” 

Stettner further added, “People don’t realize that most of the people collecting unemployment benefits now will be cut off on December 26. Most people will be going from that $200 to $300 a week to nothing.”

Will There Be A New Stimulus Package? 

The White House and Members of Congress have been negotiating the second stimulus package for months. However, the negotiation is running on a separate track.

In May, the House of Representatives signed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion proposal, which would provide federal jobless aid into 2021. However, the Republican-held Senate did not consider the bill and introduced the HEALS Act that decreased jobless aid until 2020.

In the latest discussions, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “The Democratic staff members and Republicans will see if more economic help can be part of the federal funding for services and programs next year.” The statement came after President-elect Joe Biden called on Congress to approve the $2.2 trillion HEROES Act that the House passed in May. Biden also has a new stimulus plan, but he cannot act on it until January 20, 2021. 

However, there are a few possibilities that some advancements on the stimulus bill may take place before January 20, 2021. Some of them include: 

1. A stimulus Bill Fails In The Senate Or House

The Republicans and the Democrats may propose their own stimulus bills that pass in their majority chambers but fail to be considered by the other party. In such a situation, Congress may try again after Biden is sworn as a president.

2. A stimulus Deal Is Announced Before January 20, 2021

If a stimulus bill is finalized and President Donald Trump signs it, the stimulus checks would likely begin to reach the unemployed people before the end of 2020.

Can You Still Receive Regular Unemployment Benefits?

Yes, you can continue to receive regular unemployment benefits post the expiration of federal programs. Generally, states provide benefits for up to 28 weeks, but a few states provide benefits for maximum 26 weeks. 

What To Do When Unemployment Benefits Are Exhausted?

If you have exhausted your regular unemployment benefits, apply for Extended Benefits (if your state includes the program) or PEUC or PUA (till December 26). but if you have exhausted all your unemployment benefits (including Extended Benefits, PEUC and PUA), you will no longer be able to collect benefits. 

In such situations, you must:

  1. Find A New Job – There is no doubt that industries are still dealing with unprecedented unemployment. However, you must try hard to find a job to meet your end needs. Analyze your sector and create an effective plan for re-entering the workforce. If there is little or no opportunity in your work field, consider taking up part-time jobs like delivering food or groceries that could help you generate income.
  2. Cut Your Expenses – Cut your unnecessary expenses and save that money to meet your basic needs like food, medical bills, etc. Making small cutbacks can help you to put a little extra into savings every month. 
  3. Monitor Your Credit Card For Changes – Monitor your credit for any changes. This can help you catch overspending and also frauds.

Closing Thoughts

With federal unemployment benefits ending, millions of Americans dependent on benefits will undoubtedly face tough times. If you are one among them who will lose the only income, do not get devastated. Keep looking for a new job while opting for alternative programs like Medicaid, SNAP, etc., to reduce your medical and food bills. 

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