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12 Million US Workers Set To Lose Unemployment Benefits Right After Christmas

Nicole Spector
·2 min read
Asian woman student or businesswoman work late at night.
Asian woman student or businesswoman work late at night.

It’s been an unfathomably difficult year for Americans, and sadly, 2021 isn’t looking like it will be much better — not immediately, anyway. On the day after Christmas, 12 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits, according to a new report from The Century Foundation.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), one of the federal CARES Act provisions that has been giving financial aid to unemployed Americans, expires on Dec. 31; Dec. 26 is a Saturday and technically the last day the program would release funds. Over 7 million workers rely on the supplemental insurance introduced in March, while an additional 4.6 million people are dependent on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the unemployment insurance extension available to those who have run out of standard unemployment benefits per the conditions of their state.

The December deadline was established when the aid was introduced, back when the pandemic had just struck. It hasn’t been updated since then, despite the COVID-19 pandemic becoming worse than ever in recent weeks. Unemployment researchers Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti, the authors of The Century Foundation piece, all but urge Congress to extend the deadlines and prevent a massive fall off the “benefit cliff.”

“Congress has stared down major expirations of jobless benefits multiple times during the Great Recession and previous economic cycles,” Stettner and Pancotti said in the report. “With the stakes of the benefit cutoff perhaps higher than they have ever been before, there also seems to be a grave danger that unemployed Americans could be left behind during a lame duck session taking place in the overhang of a contested presidential election. But the numbers–and families behind them–leave no excuses for inaction.”