COVID-19 relief programs are running out fast. 

CNET Staff

Time is running out on COVID-19 relief programs created by the CARES Act back in March. Unless Democrats and Republicans come to a deal on a new stimulus bill, the last provisions meant to forestall evictions, bankruptcy and hunger, such as a $1,200 stimulus check and enhanced unemployment benefits, will expire on Dec. 31, 2020. 

President-elect Joe Biden urged Congress to pass another economic relief bill last week as the pandemic reaches record highs across the country. Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan said the US economy could see a double-dip recession, which refers to the rise and then second drop following a recession. 

While Biden is reportedly gearing up to sign executive orders aimed at climate change and foreign policy, the incoming president may also extend some of these measures if a stimulus bill doesn’t bride the gap. However, he would not be able to act until after his inauguration on Jan. 20.

Without additional funds, these are the key programs will disappear before Jan 1, 2021.

Read more: What to do if you missed the Nov. 21 deadline to claim your missing stimulus check money

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Next stimulus checks: What to expect


Extension 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 for those who wouldn’t typically qualify

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.

The additional $300 extra unemployment check 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 smaller $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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Eviction moratorium to protect renters and homeowners

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.

Deferments of federal student loans

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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