With all the recent talk the new end-of-year coronavirus relief package, you would be forgiven for losing sight of what was at stake had the legislation not become law.
As of Dec. 31, 2020, programs that provide the following COVID-related relief were scheduled to end:
- Extra unemployment benefits of $300 per week (expired Dec. 27)
- Extended weeks of unemployment benefits
- Unemployment benefits for gig workers and self-employed individuals
- Moratorium on eviction for both renters and homeowners
Student loan deferment would also have been on the list, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos just extended the deadline one month, to Jan. 31.
Congress passed $900 billion in emergency coronavirus relief Dec. 21, 2020, and sent it to President Trump for his signature. After a delay, the President signed the legislation into law Sun., Dec. 27, 2020.
The recently passed legislation addresses most programs with end-of-year deadlines, but the provided relief is somewhat short-lived, depending on the program.
- As of Dec. 31, 2020, several key coronavirus programs were set to expire leaving millions in potential financial jeopardy.
- If you are unemployed or in danger of eviction, this applies to you.
- If you're unable to pay student loans, you have one more month, until Jan. 31, 2021.
- Legislation addressing most of these expirations—along with funding for additional programs—was signed into law by the president Dec. 27.
- Know what relief has been offered and where you might still be vulnerable.
What's at Stake
Here's a brief description of programs that have expired or are about to expire, who they are for, and what they provide.
Extra $300 Unemployment Benefits
The original CARES Act provided a weekly unemployment boost of $600 that expired July 31. Subsequently, President Trump signed an executive memo offering a $300 weekly bonus which expired Dec. 27.
According to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the current unemployment rate in the U.S. is 6.7%, with approximately 10.7 million unemployed individuals as of Dec. 4, 2020.
Extended Weeks of Unemployment Benefits
The CARES Act also extended the number of weeks unemployment benefits would be available from 26 weeks to 39 weeks, in most cases. As of Jan. 1, 2021, the additional 13 weeks of coverage was set to expire.
BLS statistics also indicate that approximately 3.9 million of the 10.7 million unemployed in the U.S. are long-term unemployed, having been jobless for 27 weeks or more.
Unemployment Benefits for Self-employed Individuals
Another CARES Act initiative called the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provided unemployment benefits to classes of workers not normally eligible—namely gig workers, the self-employed, and contractors. Like many other CARES Act programs, PUA was set to end Dec. 31.
According to the BLS, in Nov. 2019 the unemployment rate among self-employed workers was just 2.1%. As of Nov. 2020, the rate is 5.9%.
Previous legislation under the CARES Act gave limited protection against evictions on homes backed by federal mortgage loans, those receiving some type of federal funding, and tenants in housing backed by federal mortgage loans.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) expanded those protections to cover virtually all renters, in September. That protection was set to expire Dec. 31.
30 to 40 million
The number of people at risk of eviction in the U.S. if the protections were to expire on Dec. 31, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC).
Student Loan Deferment
Finally, the CARES Act granted a reprieve to students paying off federal student loans by deferring payments on those loans through September 2020, suspending all interest due on these loans, and allowing non-payment of loans to count as payments for certain programs that require them.
In August, President Trump extended the deferment until Dec. 31, 2020. On Dec. 4, 2020, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced an extension of the forbearance until Jan. 31, 2021. Barring further congressional action, as of Feb. 1, 2021, loan servicers will once again be able to charge interest and, depending on the servicer, students may have to begin repaying their loans.
Impact of H.R. 133 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021
As noted earlier, President Trump signed H.R. 133 – Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, into law Sun., Dec. 27, 2020. With the legislation signed and now law, here's where everything stands.
Extra and extended unemployment insurance
The legislation provides $300 per week in additional unemployment benefits for four months through March 14, 2021. In addition to regular unemployed workers, the bill also includes the self-employed, gig, and contract workers. Anyone who has exhausted their benefits would be eligible for up to 50 weeks of combined state and PUA or PEUC benefits.
By the time the President signed the legislation, extra unemployment benefits of $300 per week had already expired. This may result in a loss of one week of benefits (from 11 weeks to 10), according to experts.
Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 per year will be distributed within days according to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin.
Married couples who file jointly and earn up to $150,000 would get $1,200. Dependents 16 and under would also receive $600. Those whose bank information is already with the IRS should get paid first.
January 15, 2021
The date by which the IRS must disburse your stimulus payment to you. Failing that, you will be required to claim a tax credit when you file your 2020 taxes.
Rent Assistance and Eviction protection
The CDC eviction moratorium has been extended through January 31, 2021, as state and local governments distribute $25 billion in emergency federal rent assistance to anyone struggling to pay rent or who owes past-due rent payments.
Small Business Relief
Funds totaling $325 billion have been made available to provide forgivable first and second small business PPP loans, EIDL grants, and funding for SBA debt relief and lending as well as billions for live venues, independent movie theaters, and cultural institutions.
Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and Minority Depository Institutions (MDIs) are set to receive funding through a new Neighborhood Capital Investment program designed to help low-income and minority communities deal with the economic impact of COVID-19.
Transportation funding for airlines, airports, transit, highways, Amtrak, and private motorcoach, school bus, and ferry industries is included in the new legislation and totals $45 billion.
K–12 schools, colleges, and universities will receive billions to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This includes both public and private K–12 schools, the Bureau of Indian Education, and almost $23 billion for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund.
Other Included Funding
The new law provides for an increase in SNAP benefits, aid to farmers, money for coronavirus vaccine procurement and distribution, funding for the US Postal Service, childcare, and broadband.
Finally, the stimulus extends the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the CARES Act and the Employee Retention Tax Credit. It provides a special "lookback" for Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low-income individuals and includes a Contractor Pay Extension that lets federal agencies reimburse contractors for the cost of paid leave during the COVID pandemic.
H.R. 133 does not include funds for state and local government, liability protection for businesses related to lawsuits over COVID-19, or additional student loan deferments (which end Jan. 31, 2021).