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If you're one of the millions of Americans receiving unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you should prepare for some of the COVID-specific benefits set to expire in the coming weeks.
In March, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act increased funding for unemployment and expanded the group of eligible recipients. These relief measures addressed the sharp spike in unemployment due to the pandemic, but each has an expiration date.
The CARES Act outlined the temporary changes to unemployment insurance in addition to other economic relief—including mortgage forbearance, suspension of federal student loan payments and a one-time stimulus payment.
When Do Expanded Unemployment Benefits Expire?
If you're currently relying on expanded unemployment benefits, it's important to keep the following information in mind as you plan your budget for the coming months. These dates could change if legislators and the president agree to extend them further.
1. Extra $600 per Week in Unemployment Benefits
The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program provides Americans receiving unemployment insurance an extra $600 per week in addition to normal state benefits. This program is completely funded by the federal government and includes anyone receiving unemployment benefits in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
The FPUC program expires on July 31, 2020.
2. Newly Expanded Pool of Eligible Workers
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program expanded the pool of those eligible for unemployment benefits to include gig workers, freelancers and self-employed workers. These workers, who would have otherwise been ineligible for benefits, can now receive regular unemployment benefits from their state as well as the additional $600 per week from the FPUC program.
The PUA program expires on December 31, 2020.
3. Additional 13 Weeks of Unemployment Payments
The Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program provides an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits beyond the typical limits issued by states. In all but a handful of states, workers can receive 26 weeks of unemployment benefits. The additional 13 weeks of benefits provided through PEUC are funded by the federal government, rather than by state budgets.
The PEUC program expires on Dec 31, 2020.
Can I Still Receive Regular Unemployment Benefits?
Outside of the dates listed above, unemployment benefits offered by states will remain unchanged. This means if you are still eligible for unemployment benefits after any of the specific CARES Act provisions expire, you should still be able to collect benefits from your state.
If your normal state benefits run out before December 31, 2020, you should be able to access additional weekly benefits through the PEUC program until it expires.
What Should I Do as Additional Unemployment Benefits Expire?
If you're currently relying on unemployment benefits as your main source of income, the abrupt loss of the additional $600 per week could leave you scrambling to make ends meet. And if your employment situation hasn't returned to normal by later this year, the loss of the additional benefits could also have an impact.
Preparing for these changes now could put you in a better position to weather the storm as these programs expire. The following tips could help in the case you're impacted by the reduction of benefits:
- Cut back spending as much as possible now. If you can, try to save as much as possible while you have the income. Though expenses may be tight, making small cutbacks can allow you to put a little extra into savings each month. If you envision still being out of work by the time these benefits expire, the savings you've built up could make a difference.
- Add to your emergency fund. As part of your overall savings plan, make sure you are building, or have already built, an emergency fund. This type of account will ideally hold three to six months' worth of your expenses and should be used to cover emergencies or your bills should you lose income. While it may be tricky right now, try to use whatever available income you may have to fund this emergency account.
- Revisit your debt payments and budget. If you fear your unemployment might be reduced, revisit your budget to see if you have any areas you may be able to easily cut back. Take inventory of your debt payments and, if possible, prioritize these so you don't fall behind on payments and damage your credit. If you don't think you'll be able to pay your debt payments on your reduced income, contact your creditors immediately to see if they have any relief options available.
- Try to get a new job. Though the nation is dealing with unprecedented unemployment across many industries, the most effective solution to counter lost income is to find a new job. Depending on your field and how it's being impacted by the ongoing pandemic, consider creating a plan for re-entering the workforce. If there's little opportunity in your field of work, think about other short-term jobs that could help you generate income.
Consider gig jobs like delivering food or groceries, and look into what industries are hiring during the pandemic (logistics/shipping, mail carriers, cleaners, grocery stores). While taking a job outside of your field may feel like a professional deviation, set a plan to return to your industry when jobs begin to appear again.
- Monitor your credit for changes. As always, it's good to monitor your credit for any changes that occur in your reports. Monitoring your credit can alert you to fraud and can help you catch overspending. During this uncertain time, staying on top of your credit can give you an extra peace of mind if your finances change due to the pandemic. You can get free credit monitoring from Experian to keep up with any and all changes that occur in your credit reports.
Keep Up With the News on Benefit Changes
Congress has not announced any extensions of these programs and legislation has stalled as of July, but depending on how states manage the reopening process, there is a possibility some dates could be extended to provide additional relief.
If you're unsure when your benefits end, check with your state's unemployment office for more information. You can find the contact information for your state's department of labor here.