The clock is ticking on Capitol Hill as discussions between Republicans and Democratic lawmakers over a second stimulus package are likely to last well into the weekend. But whatever actions they take, some 12 million Americans will soon see their unemployment benefits expire.
These Americans include gig workers, independent contractors, and self-employed workers, as well as unemployed Americans who will be paid the maximum number of weeks a person can get in their state. In pre-pandemic times, handymen, freelancers and the self-employed were not eligible for unemployment benefits.
But through a CARES Act program known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, these workers were eligible for the $ 600 a week in federal unemployment benefits, which expired in July. They were also eligible for state unemployment benefits which were calculated based on the average weekly unemployment benefits in their country.
That ends on Dec. 31, but because government workers’ services typically pay unemployment benefits on Saturdays, about 7.3 million Americans who have received benefits through the PUA program will receive their final checks on Dec. 26 – just a day after Christmas, according to a report by Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti of the liberal-minded Century Foundation.
Another 4.65 million Americans will also see their benefits drop to zero on the same day. These Americans were cleared for an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits through another CARES Act program, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, after the number of weeks granted to them by their states had been exhausted.
The California Employment Development Department has warned about 3 million Californians that they should not expect further benefits beyond December 26, “unless the US Congress takes further action to extend them.” Alerts sent to plaintiffs by email, text, and mail also informed Californians about food and money relief programs.
In New York, about 1.4 million workers will end their unemployment benefits completely by December 26, the Century Foundation report found.
Unlike incentive checks, which lawmakers are considering including in a second stimulus package and can be shipped relatively quickly – though half of the checks issued in April – government agencies need time to recalibrate their backend systems to accommodate new changes.
For example, when President Donald Trump authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to use disaster relief funds to pay an additional $ 300 per week to some unemployed Americans, it took some state agencies months to make the necessary changes to their systems.
However, if Congress were to pass a second round of stimulus checks, the Treasury Department would essentially just have to “push a button and [the stimulus checks] would be in people’s bank accounts, they would have that money by the end of the year, ”said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist.
That’s because, during the first round of stimulus checks, the Treasury Department has already filled out a “ base file ” of all U.S. information eligible for a check, Sahm said, based on conversations she had with department officials.
A proposal for a bipartisan stimulus package calls for a 16-week extension of the two CARES Act programs expiring on December 26. It also calls for $ 300 a week in increased unemployment benefits that unemployed Americans would receive on top of their unemployment rates. benefits for 16 weeks starting at the end of this month.
Senate leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that he is “even more optimistic now than I was last night that a bicameral, bicameral parliament for a major bailout package is very close.”
On Thursday, the Kentucky Republican said it was “very likely” that lawmakers would have to work over the weekend to finalize a stimulus package.