12 Million Unemployed Americans Will Lose Benefits The Day After Christmas

Congress, it appears, won't stop the economy from driving off a cliff.

Originally Published: 
protestor carries a sign about unemployment benefits

The end of the year might lead to a catastrophic bottoming out of an economy that has been held afloat by key provisions of the CARES Act. Student loan forbearance, for example, which has allowed American families to pause their student debt payments without interest since March, is set to expire on the last day of 2020. The national eviction moratorium, also a key provision in the CARES Act, will also expire right around the end of the year, and so will a key mortgage forbearance program. But that’s not all: the day after Christmas, December 26, 12 million people who have been kept afloat through pandemic-related unemployment benefits through the CARES Act will be thrown off of them without recourse.

It will have a blindingly bad effect on the economy and will plunge millions of Americans into poverty, potential eviction, debt, and more.

The two provisions that expire on December 26 are as follows: the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which gives freelancers and gig workers access to unemployment benefits they traditionally did not have access to, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation Benefits, which provided another 13 weeks — or three months — of unemployment aid that extended beyond the 26-week maximum that states provide to unemployed workers.

These lapses in unemployment coverage will throw 7.3 million and 4.6 million workers off of their cash benefits respectively — and added to no more eviction protections, student loan forbearance, and mortgage forbearance, the economy could come to a grinding halt — and American families could suffer as a result.

Of course, there’s dramatic irony in the fact that this will happen after the “merriest day of the year,” after a holiday which often drives the economy because of massive sales. But it’s not just some abstract, ironic thing. These are people’s lives in the balance. These jobless benefits have helped people pay rent, their bills, and buy food. Support their families.

Meanwhile, Congress has been sitting on their hands since March — the last time they passed any meaningful COVID relief legislation — while millions of Americans are stuck in the lurch. Their unwillingness to help American families will be devastating, but it won’t just be devastating to the people who lose their homes, who go into student loan default, who experience food insecurity. It will be devastating for everyone because we’re all in this economy together. It is our duty — especially now — to help one another. Where is Congress, and why aren’t they trying to help us?

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