While many may be thrilled to say goodbye to a year that included a coronavirus pandemic, economic uncertainty and the deaths of many celebrated icons, 2021 will also mean the end of many coronavirus-era protections and benefits.
Benefits related to unemployment, student loans and housing security are all set to automatically expire on December 31.
Of course, new legislation could change this, if it could get through Congress. However, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have stalled for months over a new COVID-19 stimulus relief package. Their negotiations have bogged down in recriminations toward each side as they squabble about the overall price tag of the plan.
Here’s what you need to know:
Several Unemployment Programs Will End December 31
The extra 13 weeks of unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and $600-per-week in unemployment supplements provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act — as well as the $300-per-week six-week-maximum unemployment supplement provided for by the Lost Wages Assistance program — are all set to expire on December 31.
Normally, unemployment insurance claims only last up to 26 weeks, yet the CARES Act extended that duration to 39 weeks. However, this will expire on January 1. You can check to see if your state is one that has increased its benefit period, according to a chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Many states, however, have not made an increase to their benefits period.
The PUA program was set up for self-employed people, gig workers, independent contractors and others ineligible for regular unemployment benefits; that program provided 39 weeks of unemployment insurance, yet is set to end December 31. This program can only be extended by the states if the federal government fails to extend it in another stimulus package or create a separate bill to extend it.
Finally, $600 unemployment supplements were offered until they expired on July 31. Then, the president signed a memo establishing $300 supplements to unemployment, yet most of these have since been maxed out by states. Any money left over for the program would stop being distributed on December 27, the program’s expiration date.
Student Loans Payments Will Resume in 2021
The U.S. Department of Education notified those who with student loans that it would introduce an automatic deferral for all federal student loans and that it also would not collect interest on federally held loans (which excludes FFEL and Perkins Loans) from March 27 to September. In early August, President Trump directed the suspension of loan payments to continue until December 31.
Forbes reported that those who have lost their jobs, recent graduates without a job and those unable to resume paying student loans during the pandemic have some options after the deferment expires:
- You can apply for an economic hardship deferment, an unemployment deferment or forbearance for some types of loans
- You can try to refinance your student loans
- You change your current plan to an income-driven repayment plan
According to Student Loan Hero, there is a total of 35.1 million loan borrowers of the federal loans eligible for suspension that can expect to see those loans return as an expense in the new year.
The Eviction Moratorium Is Set to End December 31
The eviction moratorium is set to expire in 2021 and tens of thousands of companies — including Westminster, the company co-owned by President Trump’s son-in-law and White House advisor, Jared Kushner, according to The Washington Post — have filed to evict their tenants.
The Post has published stories warning of an impending eviction crisis and the Eviction Lab, a national eviction database launched by sociologist Matt Desmond, found through available court records that landlords in 25 cities had filed for 102,004 evictions during the pandemic as of October 31, 2020.
The website agreed that the eviction moratorium was an important step, but noted, “Once these measures expire, however, millions of renters will owe significant amounts of back rent. For many, a displacement and eviction crisis will follow the public health crisis.”
Evictions, which were already an issue before the pandemic, are going to become even more of an issue according to housing experts such as the Urban Institute’s Corianne Payton Scally. She told PBS, “Many of these households were already living one paycheck away from disaster. With COVID-19, that disaster has struck.”
PBS reported that the impact of evictions disproportionately falls on “Native American, Black and Latino households, LGBTQ tenants, and tenants with disabilities (who) are more likely to be extremely low-income renters.”
Wake Forest University housing expert Emily Benfer told PBS that the effects of eviction — which can last for years on a person’s housing record and make finding good housing very difficult — are devastating. “Eviction is an incredibly traumatizing experience that affects every aspect of a person’s life.” she said. “Nothing good comes out of eviction.”