A new study from the Century Foundation estimates that 12 million Americans could lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas. When Congress passed the CARES Act back in March, it included two programs that aimed to help people forced out of work due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program allowed self-employed and gig economy workers to claim unemployment benefits for the first time, and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program offered extended benefits for workers who were no longer eligible to receive benefits from their state.
Both programs were only meant to be temporary and were scheduled to expire before the end of the year. Unless Congress acts soon, those programs could end, leaving millions of people struggling to pay their bills.
“Absent congressional action to extend CARES Act benefits, December 26 will mark the end of one of the last lifelines available to millions of Americans in desperate need,” said Andrew Stettner, who co-authored the study with Elizabeth Pancotti. “It will be a crippling end to one of our darkest years.”
The study found that when the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance expires, 7.3 million people could be cut off. An additional 4.6 million people could lose their benefits when the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program ends.
That accounts for more than half of the 21 million people currently receiving some form of unemployment benefits from the government.
It is unclear if Congress will pass an extension for the two programs. Republicans and Democrats have been deadlocked over a new coronavirus relief bill for months. While there was hope both sides could come to an agreement following the presidential election, lawmakers have not engaged in any formal negotiations on the issue.
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