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A number of critical COVID-19 economic relief programs will expire at the end of the year, which could force millions off of unemployment insurance, push many small businesses to permanently close, and raise the specter of mass evictions. This could threaten the stability of the US economy as the country enters an uncertain 2021.
In March, during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, easily passed both houses of Congress with bipartisan support, providing a lifeline to recently laid-off employees and businesses that were forced to close due to COVID-related shutdowns.
However, this legislative comity quickly dissipated as the pandemic wore on. The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, which followed the CARES Act, passed in the US House of Representatives in May, but was stymied in the Senate. While Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi championed the bill, GOP Senate Majority Mitch McConnell deemed it as too expensive.
Stimulus gridlock has largely ensued ever since, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin working with Pelosi and McConnell for months with little progress.
Pelosi wants a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, while McConnell has sought a $500 billion plan, but the leaders have not hashed out a compromise. Nor have their staffs worked together to forge any consensus on a potential bill. On November 19, Mnuchin expressed his desire to have $580 billion in unspent stimulus funds redirected to small businesses and to extend unemployment benefits. It is unclear if this will occur, however, as it requires Congressional approval.
“We need this money to go help small businesses that are still closed or hurt, no fault of their own,” Mnuchin said last week. “Or people who are gonna be on unemployment that’s running out.”
With President Donald Trump refusing to approve and coordinate transition efforts with President-elect Joe Biden, exacerbated by the continued stimulus-related legislative impasse, there is a huge potential for dire economic problems for Americans if program extensions are not made in the next few weeks.
These events have all happened while at least 250,000 American citizens have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, a once-unthinkable statistic.
Here are some of the COVID-19 economic relief programs that will be impacted on or close to December 31:
Extended unemployment insurance
On December 31, the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, or PEUC, will expire. This economic relief program extended traditional unemployment benefits from the standard 26 weeks to 39 weeks. Self-employed and gig economy workers can collect state unemployment benefits through December 31, but that will also expire under the CARES Act.
According to a study by the Century Foundation, roughly 12 million people will lose their unemployment benefits on December 26 if no Congressional action is taken to forge a compromise stimulus bill.
At the end of July, the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC, expired, which provided a federally funded $600 weekly supplemental boost to state unemployment payments. This was a …read more
Source:: Business Insider