Unemployment Aid for 13 Million Americans Is Expiring. Here’s What to Do

Two people wait in a car for a food bank to open in LA.
Norman Butler, a first time food bank user, and his girlfriend Cheryl Butler wait overnight in their car, along with others lined up to receive food at a distribution point in Metairie, La., Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. Before the pandemic, Norman, 53, flourished in the tourism-dominated city, working as an airport shuttle and limousine driver, a valet and hotel doorman. Since March when the normally bustling streets turned silent, the only work he's had has been as an Uber driver. Gerald Herbert/AP Photo

Millions of jobless Americans are expected to lose their weekly unemployment benefits before the end of December. If you’re among them, you should act before they expire — as lawmakers are still deadlocked on additional relief measures.

The CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in March, poured unprecedented amounts of money into the creation of new federal unemployment programs. Those programs, which currently assist more than 13 million people who are unemployed due to coronavirus-related reasons, expire this month.

The two major federal unemployment programs that are sunsetting are Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). State-level Unemployment Insurance programs are not affected by the deadline.

The CARES Act authorized much more than unemployment aid. Here’s a look at the seven other pandemic programs that are expiring in December.

“Without Congressional action to extend the CARES Act’s PEUC and PUA programs into 2021, millions of workers will drop to zero benefits by the end of this year,” writes unemployment policy analyst Michele Evermore in a report for the National Employment Law Project.

The looming deadline is pushing lawmakers to negotiate. In the meantime, don’t wait to take action.

FROM THE MAKE MONEY FORUM

5 Things to Do If Your Unemployment Benefits Are About to Expire

You can take some concrete steps now to manage the income void when the federal benefits programs expire.

  • Don’t bank on new stimulus aid. The July expiration of the popular $600 weekly boost to unemployment payments didn’t rally lawmakers to pass a new stimulus package. Don’t bet everything on them passing one this time around. Make a contingency plan that factors in the worst-case scenario: no new aid.
  • Check your eligibility for state-level unemployment extensions. If you’re receiving PEUC, the federal 13-week UI extension that expires this month, you may be able to switch over to a state-level Extended Benefits program. Unfortunately, if you receive PUA benefits, you won’t qualify for an extension from your state.
  • Start your job hunt (if you haven’t already). Even if you are able to extend your benefits, you’ll need to start looking for work. Doubly true if your benefits cease. The CARES Act allowed states to waive the job search requirements for unemployment aid. That provision is also expected to expire. Depending on your state, you may need to begin filing a log of your work-searching activities to continue receiving aid. Here’s how to adjust your resume and explain your employment gap to prospective employers.
  • Snag a seasonal job. Not finding your dream job right now? No question, it’s a tough time to be job hunting. Instead of getting discouraged — and watching your funds deplete — consider a seasonal job to get some money coming in while you continue the hunt. The Penny Hoarder tallied more than 750,000 seasonal job openings around the country. (And if you really like the gig, here’s how to turn it into a permanent job.)
  • Adjust your budget. Budgeting won’t solve everything, but it can help. Switching to a bare-bones budget can help you weather a loss of income by focusing on essential expenses. Pause monthly subscriptions and services, and consider making only the minimum payments on essential debts for the meantime.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.