Back in March, Congress passed the CARES Act in order to help mitigate some of the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was a time when most people thought the pandemic would be short-lived, so many of its provisions are set to expire at the end of the year.
December 31 is fast approaching and the pandemic wears on, with even stricter restrictions being added for the holiday season in many states. Even though Congress is once again working to address the issue, it is important for you to understand which benefits are scheduled to go away at year-end.
Pandemic Unemployment Assistance
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, or PUA, gives states the ability to provide “unemployment” benefits to those who don’t qualify for regular unemployment. This includes individuals that are self-employed, independent contractors or gig economy workers.
Extended Federal Unemployment Benefits
The CARES Act also enhanced regular unemployment benefits. Thanks to Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, individuals have been able to collect federal unemployment benefits for up to 39 weeks rather than the standard 26 weeks.
$300 Extra Unemployment Benefit
At first, the federal government was providing an extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits. That was cut in half, but individuals collecting unemployment benefits have still been receiving a $300 bonus unemployment check each week, which will soon end.
Protections Against Evictions
There are currently protections in place against evictions for failure to pay rent in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This prevents a landlord or owner from evicting a “covered” person from a residential property due to the tenant’s inability to pay rent. The CDC extended these protections, but they are set to expire on December 31.
Student Loan Deferments
Another extended portion of the CARES Act, this stipulation allows those with student loans to defer payments until December 31. That means that since March, no payments have been due and no interest has accrued on student loans. Unless further action is taken, these deferments may no longer be an option and interest will resume being charged.
What Can You Do?
If you have benefited from any of these provisions of the CARES Act, you probably aren’t happy to hear that they are ending. Some benefits may be extended or new benefits introduced, but that would require an act of Congress. As such, it’s important to think through the coming year as if these benefits are ending permanently. In that vein, here are some things you can do to prepare:
Make A Plan
It sounds simple, but this is the most important task. Talk to your family and loved ones and make a plan to conserve your finances. Maybe this means you have to cut your spending, look for some part-time work, or temporarily move in with family - whatever your plan of action may be, just make sure you have one.
Keep An Eye On Policies
This may not be the end of your benefits. Congress has recently shown renewed interest in passing another coronavirus relief bill. Always stay aware of what’s going on in policy, on both the state and federal levels, so you can remain on top of the situation.
While government benefits can be very helpful, it’s important to remember who your true provider is. No matter what is going on in your life, you should make a habit of regularly and intentionally taking your eyes off of the troubles surrounding you and, as the psalmist says, lifting up your eyes to where your true help comes from. May Psalm 121 encourage you as this year comes to a close and help you focus on your true Savior:
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 (NIV)