If another stimulus bill passes, these 5 critical benefits may get new life

Congress could help tens of millions of Americans if it passes a relief package soon.

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3 min read

Are coronavirus relief programs coming back? Signs point to yes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If a new COVID-19 rescue package doesn't pass before Dec. 26, the last remaining coronavirus relief programs will start to evaporate, including $300 per week federal unemployment insurance for tens of millions of out-of-job Americans. Negotiations continue through the weekend on a $900 billion bipartisan stimulus bill that includes a second stimulus check worth up to $600, which is half of the $1,200 maximum the first stimulus payment brought in the spring.

The working understanding on Capitol Hill is that President-elect Joe Biden will seek another stimulus package in 2021. It isn't clear if that would that include a third stimulus check, but it could extend certain protections, like a halt to the majority of rent-related evictions and the renewal of extra unemployment benefits to those who lost their job because of the pandemic. 

As is, the emergency stopgap stimulus package now under consideration only extends certain rescue measures for another few months or even less. We'll take you through the specific benefits set to expire in 2020, and how the new stimulus bill could extend them.

Watch this: Next stimulus checks: What to expect

A $300 bonus weekly unemployment check

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, President Donald 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 yet, and all states have exhausted the six weeks of extra funding. The $300 bonus provision is set to end on Dec. 31, according to the president's memo

In the bipartisan package, the $300 bonus will restart for another 16 weeks if passed, although it's unclear when states would send out the payments. 

Extended weeks of unemployment insurance

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. 

If Congress passes the new stimulus bill, it would add-on another 16 weeks of unemployment insurance to cover jobseekers into April.

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


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

Sarah Tew/CNET

Unemployment money for freelancers, contractors, gig workers

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, but most will receive their last check on Dec. 26. 

The $748 billion relief package would provide 16 more weeks of PUA, along with the $300 weekly bonus. 

An eviction ban benefitting 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. 

If the stimulus bill passes, it would extend the moratorium for one month. It's then expected that President-elect Biden would provide a longer extension once he takes office on Jan. 20

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. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced on Dec. 4 a one-month extension on deferments to Jan. 31. 

The $748 billion relief package does include a student loan deferment that would last until April. 

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