To counteract the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, policymakers have passed a range of COVID-19 financial relief measures, including expanding unemployment benefits, easing student loan obligations and halting evictions.
But as 2020 draws to a close, a number of these measures are set to expire, leaving the Americans who rely on them in the lurch.
Here’s what to know about which COVID-19 relief options expire Dec. 31 — unless extensions or replacements are passed — and how to prepare for their termination.
Expanded Unemployment Insurance
At the end of December 2020, unemployed folks are set to lose access to unemployment assistance through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, called PUA, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, called PEUC.
These jobless benefits were part of coronavirus relief provisions passed in March.
The PUA extends unemployment compensation to workers, such as contractors or part-time employees, who were typically ineligible for regular unemployment benefits.
The PEUC adds 13 weeks of unemployment assistance to jobless Americans who exhausted their regular state benefits, but it expires the week ending Dec. 26.
Once these expanded unemployment benefits are gone, out-of-work Americans will no longer receive them.
Some unemployed Americans, however, can find unemployment relief through what’s called Extended Benefits, or EB, says Chad Stone, chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Depending on your state, EB may be available to provide additional weeks of payments to workers who’ve exhausted regular unemployment compensation or PEUC.
The availability and details of the EB program will be state-specific, so visit your state’s office of unemployment compensation website and look into whether this assistance is available for you.
In September, an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention halted evictions through Dec. 31, 2020, for eligible tenants who couldn’t pay rent.
With no action to provide rental assistance or extended moratoria, we’ll likely see significant evictions in January and February, says Douglas Rice, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Help may be found through state or local housing programs or nonprofits if, after eight months of pandemic-related hardship, funds are still available.
But, generally, this is a precarious situation for renters. Cash-strapped tenants could find themselves evicted in the middle of winter and during a escalating pandemic.
For homeowners, the Federal Housing Administration extended its foreclosure and eviction moratorium, which covered homeowners with FHA-insured single family mortgages, through Dec. 31, 2020.
With some exceptions for vacant or abandoned properties, it pauses new foreclosure actions and stops evictions from FHA-insured single family properties. After 2020 ends, homeowners and tenants could see the resumption of foreclosure and eviction activities.
Student Loan Relief
An executive memorandum from President Donald Trump extended coronavirus relief for borrowers with federal student loans through Dec. 31. The relief includes the pausing of federal student loan payments and collections through the end of 2020 and a temporary 0% interest rate on federally held student loans.
Once 2021 arrives, “those payments resume,” says Ashley Harrington, federal advocacy director and senior counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a North Carolina-based organization that works to ensure fair credit practices.
If you’re struggling with the impending prospect of a resumption in payments or collections, be proactive in identifying relief options you can access after Jan. 1, Harrington says. “You have to be your own best advocate,” she says.
For federal student loans, consider forbearance, an income-based repayment plan or other options. Reach out to your loan servicers for additional guidance. “It never hurts to actually reach out and speak to the servicers and creditors and see what they’re offering,” Harrington says.
Coronavirus Retirement Account Relief
March’s coronavirus relief bill allowed savers access to emergency retirement account withdrawals, more permissive 401(k) loans and delayed RMDs, which are required minimum distributions, in 2020.
Generally, savers impacted by the coronavirus could withdraw up to $100,000 from a 401(k) or individual retirement account until Dec. 31 without being charged the 10% penalty. (Income tax still applies.) Retirees age 72 and older were also able to skip taking their 2020 required minimum distributions.
Once 2021 arrives, the rules revolving around retirement accounts are scheduled to revert back to normal.
The takeaway here? If you want to take advantage of one of these measures, do it before the option expires. “If you need to take a distribution from your IRA to deal with expenses because of COVID, do it now,” says Howard Gleckman, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
Boosted Tax Benefits for Charitable Giving
If you’re feeling inclined to donate to charity, making your donation during 2020 can net you additional tax benefits.
One benefit is a $300 above-the-line deduction for taxpayers who don’t itemize and make eligible cash donations.
For filers who want to donate generously, Uncle Sam has eased the restrictions for how much you can deduct this year as a percent of your adjusted gross income, or AGI. Generally, in a typical year, you can deduct charitable contributions of up to 50% or 60% of your AGI. For 2020, you can deduct up to 100% of your AGI.
Once January arrives, a new tax year starts, and the rules around charitable giving will likely reset.
If you want to make a gift, now is a good year to do it because of the tax benefits. “It’s a good year to give to charity,” Gleckman says.
With another several weeks left of 2020, it’s possible policymakers will extend some relief provisions into 2021. Or perhaps, after President-elect Joseph Biden is sworn in, his administration will enact new relief programs for struggling Americans early in the year. But there are no guarantees, and it’s wise to plan for a future without these measures.
Certainly, losing unemployment assistance or housing relief while COVID-19 cases spike, temperatures drop and the U.S. economy continues feeling the impacts of the pandemic is a scary prospect if you’re relying on these measures to make ends meet.
Do what you can to prepare for the cessation of your benefits and advocate for your representatives to extend them if they bring value to your life and your community.
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These COVID-19 Relief Measures Expire at the End of the Year originally appeared on usnews.com