There’s an expiration date to the final remaining COVID-19 relief benefits, before they go up in smoke.

CNET Staff

In just over seven weeks, all of the most significant coronavirus relief programs will go expire on Dec. 31, 2020, after some were extended in August when President Donald Trump signed four executive actions. Their expiration would set the stage for a tangle of financial issues starting on the first day of the new year, including an expected uptick in people filing for personal bankruptcy.

America’s top lawmakers and economists acknowledge that more stimulus aid is imperative to help keep people fed, clothed, housed and employed, and to help speed up the economic recovery. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who on Saturday became the US president-elect, has a stimulus plan of his own. However, he won’t be able to formally act on it until taking up official duties on Jan. 20.

“We’ll have a stronger recovery if we can just get at least some more fiscal support,” Jerome Powell, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Nov. 5, adding, “When it’s appropriate and the size Congress thinks it’s appropriate.”

The size of another stimulus package and how soon it could pass are hotly contested along party lines. Republicans in Congress, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, want a smaller bill with less funding while Democrats, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, prefer a larger package with more programs. It isn’t clear if a future Senate proposal would include a second stimulus check for individuals and families or more unemployment assistance.

The March CARES Act authorized the first $1,200 stimulus check and the $600 weekly unemployment bonus, which collectively provided aid to hundreds of millions of Americans who were unemployed or in financial need when the pandemic hit.  Here are the key programs that are set to end.

Read more: You don’t have to be a US citizen living in America to get a stimulus check

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


13 extra weeks of unemployment benefits

Individual states handle unemployment insurance claims, determining if a person is eligible, how much they receive and for how long they can collect. Though it varies from state to state, the CARES Act extended the duration of benefits from 26 weeks to 39 weeks. Starting on Jan. 1, those additional 13 weeks provided by the federal government are gone. 

Some states have already backfilled the void on their own, including increasing their benefit period up to 59 weeks, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Others, including Alabama, Arkansas and Utah, haven’t taken action on it, which could leave unemployed workers in those states without assistance as the new year begins.   

Read more: Coronavirus unemployment: Who is covered, how to apply and how much it pays

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program

Another initiative of the CARES Act, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, also known as PUA, provided economic relief to those who wouldn’t typically qualify for unemployment: self-employed workers, contractors and gig workers. The PUA is set to end Dec. 31. If the federal government doesn’t extend it, it will be up to the states to determine whether they will step in on Jan. 1.

Unemployment benefit of $300 per week

The average weekly unemployment benefit doesn’t always equal a worker’s earnings and typically ranges between $300 and $600. To help fill the gap, the CARES Act added a weekly unemployment benefit bonus of $600. When that bonus expired on July 31, Trump signed an executive memo paving the way for a $300 weekly bonus (for a six-week period) with the expectation Congress would soon pass another relief package. That hasn’t happened, and most states have exhausted the six weeks of extra funding. The $300 bonus provision is set to end on Dec. 27, according to the president’s memo, and is expected to sunset unused.


Can Congress piece these programs back together before more damage is done? It’s a waiting game.


Protection from evictions for failure to pay rent

The CARES Act provided limited protection on evictions by only focusing on homes backed with a federal mortgage loan or households that received some type of federal funding. The protections were then expanded in September by the Centers for Disease Control, which called for a halt on evictions for failure to pay rent. This order by the agency covered more households, including renters in 43 million households, but it also has an expiration date of Dec. 31.

Student loan deferrals

Students who are paying off federal student loans also received a reprieve under the CARES Act, which gave them the option to defer their loan payments (and which paused the accrual of interest) until the end of September 2020. In August, Trump extended the deferment until Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, loan servicers will once again be able to charge interest on these loans and students may have to resume paying them off unless the servicers offer deferment options. 

For more information, here’s the latest status of stimulus negotiations, and here’s everything we know about the next relief bill.

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