November 20, 2020
Stimulus programs benefiting unemployed workers, renters and student loan borrowers will expire at the end of December, unless action is taken by Congress or the White House.
This means, on Jan. 1, millions of Americans could face the end of renters assistance programs, lose the paid leave from their jobs that is allowing them to care for sick family members or children home attending school virtually and have to start repaying their deferred student loan payments.
At the start of the pandemic, Congress granted trillions of dollars in pandemic relief programs that loaned money to small business owners and gave weekly unemployment benefits to those that lost their jobs, according to CNN. Though many of those benefits have already expired — the Paycheck Protection Program stopped taking applications in August and the federal boost to unemployment benefits ran out in July.
For months, lawmakers have failed to agree on the terms of another stimulus package, and it's unlikely that one will change soon.
In Philadelphia, $30 million in Federal CARES Act Funding was distributed to renters and small businesses last week.
"While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect everyday life, we recognize that some of our most vulnerable communities need more help to pay rent in order to stay in their homes and our small businesses need continued support to survive," Mayor Jim Kenney said last week. "That’s why this additional relief will be deployed as quickly as possible to prevent evictions and business closures, and to protect jobs."
The city raised funds for small businesses throughout the pandemic, as well, and had a phased renters assistance program that helped residents.
Three programs were created to help out-of-work Americans — while the $600 payment enhancement ended last July, the other two are set to expire on Dec. 26, the last weekend of the year.
By October, nearly 3.6 million Americans had been out of work for at least 27, CNN reported, and that number is expected to increase as hiring slows in the coming months.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program qualified independent contractors, self-employed and gig workers for assistance and opened the program up to those who cannot work because of the pandemic due to an ill family member or their children's schools being closed.
It's estimated that 7.3 million Americans will lose those payments, according to The Century Foundation.
The second program set to expire is the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that provides an additional 13 weeks of federally paid benefits to those who run out of state assistance. Approximately 4.6 million workers will be affected by the expiration of this program at the end of the year.
Student loan payments were suspended in March at the beginning of the pandemic, and interest was waived. This allowed borrowers to pause payments without their balance growing as they got on their feet amid the pandemic.
That relief was set to expire in September, but President Donald Trump signed an executive order to extend the program to Dec. 31.
Millions of student loan payments will be due just weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January, meaning confusion from borrowers and processors could be in store if Biden reinstates the pause when he assumes power.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created an order that temporarily stopped evictions through 2020 for renters that meet certain income requirements and could prove losses of income.
The order did not cancel out rent or freeze it, meaning a renter would owe all their paused payments on Jan 1. If the order is allowed to expire or no relief is created.
Congress instituted an eviction moratorium in March that protected renters who receive federal assistance, though that lapsed over the summer.
In Philadelphia, housing officials instated a city-wide moratorium on evictions until March of 2021, meaning those living in the city are protected from getting evicted for another 4 1/2 months.
For those caring for someone else or who become sick themselves, lawmakers enacted paid family leave benefits.
It provided up to 2 weeks of paid sick leave and an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave for families who needed to watch their kids while schools were closed.
Those benefits will expire on Dec. 31.
State and local governments received their share of the $150 billion congress provided to help cover COVID-19 related expenses. Those funds expire by Dec. 30, meaning states have to use them or lose them.
Most of that money has gone towards health-related expenses, economic relief, education and child care, and government expenses.
States have been pushing for more time to use that money, or more flexibility to spend it on budget shortfalls, which Congress has not approved.
Philadelphia distributed its CARES Act funding throughout the pandemic to go towards financially vulnerable populations like small businesses and renters.