When the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out in the US, Congress quickly approved a variety of unprecedented measures to help Americans and the economy during the historical crisis. These provisions included supplemental unemployment insurance, student loan deferment, and an eviction moratorium for renters and homeowners.
Most of these critical measures expired over the summer. Now, the few ones that remain are slated to end at the end of the year.
US News My Money explains what you should know about each option and how you can prepare for their expiration.
Enhanced Unemployment Benefits
Congress created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) programs when they passed the CARES Act in March.
The PUA broadened eligibility restrictions so that independent contractors, freelancers, gig workers, part-time employees, and others could access state unemployment insurance.
The PEUC, on the other hand, provided an additional 13 weeks of unemployment payments to out-of-work Americans who depleted their state benefits.
Both programs will expire at the end of December. However, according to Chad Stone, the chief economist at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, assistance may still be available through Extended Benefits (EB).
The EB program extends the duration that recipients can receive benefits, even if they exhausted their payments from regular unemployment and the PEUC. Check your state unemployment agency website to learn if EB is available in your state.
On August 8, President Trump passed a series of executive actions extending a few measures from the CARES Act, which had expired earlier in the summer. One of these directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to stop evictions until December 31, 2020.
While this measure only applied to qualifying renters, it still offered some level of protection. Without another moratorium, Douglas Rice, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, predicts that thousands of renters will likely lose their homes during the first two months of 2020.
Struggling tenants may find assistance from state or local housing advocacy groups and nonprofits if funding remains.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) provided relief to homeowners with federally-backed mortgages by pausing foreclosures and evictions through the end of 2020. However, without this assistance, a wave of homeowners could lose their homes this winter.
Student Loan Relief
President Trump renewed the deadline for student loan relief until December 31, 2020. This measure waived interest payments on all federal student loans and suspended monthly payments.
But, once this program ends, “those payments resume,” notes Ashley Harrington, the Center for Responsible Lending’s federal advocacy director and senior counsel.
Harrington told US News My Money that borrowers should actively look for and utilize all possible relief options. “You have to be your own best advocate,” she advises.
If you took out a federal student loan, you have several options, including forbearance and income-based payment plans. Contact your loan provider to learn what hardship programs are available. “It never hurts to actually reach out and speak to the servicers and creditors and see what they’re offering,” Harrington suggests.
Coronavirus Retirement Account Relief
The CARES Act temporarily waived the 10% penalty for early withdrawals on 401(k)s and loosened regulations for RMDs until December 31. Additionally, it exempted retirees 72 and older from taking the required minimum distributions.
These changes provided older Americans — most of whom live on a fixed income — a larger financial safety net during the pandemic. But once these measures expire, the standard rules will apply in 2021.
So, “If you need to take a distribution from your IRA to deal with expenses because of COVID, do it now,” Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told US News My Money.
Increased Tax Benefits For Charitable Contributions
A final benefit that will end this year is extra tax advantages for charitable contributions. You can qualify for a $300 above-the-line deduction if you don’t itemize your deductions and donate to a qualifying charity.
Additionally, the federal government expanded rules regarding the amount you can write off this year as a portion of your AGI from 50% to 100%. However, the restrictions will revert in 2021. So if you want to donate to charity and enjoy a tax break from it, now is the best time to do so.
- Snider, Susannah. “Prepare for COVID-19 Relief Measures Expiring at the End of 2020.” U.S. News & World Report, U.S. News & World Report, 17 Nov. 2020, money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/these-covid-19-relief-measures-expire-at-the-end-of-the-year.