The day after Christmas is known in the UK as Boxing Day. For millions of Americans, it could literally be the day they start packing, as enhanced unemployment benefits expire on Dec. 26 and a federal moratorium on evictions ends on Dec. 31.
The negotiations over a new round of stimulus are now batting around the idea of a $900 billion injection into the economy. That would include a federal unemployment extension, possibly a stimulus check, new funding for state and local governments, a revived Paycheck Protection Program, and COVID-19 vaccine distribution funding.
Both sides have teased us with talk of progress in the past. Apparently, the logjam over $2.2 trillion versus $1.8 trillion has been whittled down to the current ballpark of $908 billion. Whether even that amount passes is still up in the air. The Senate is in no hurry, adjourning for the weekend.
“It has to get done before they go home,” Joe Biden said during a virtual press briefing Friday. “Millions and millions of Americans simply can’t wait any longer.”
Congress is scheduled to adjourn this coming Wednesday. If it’s close, they could extend their stays. But even if they manage to pass something, it will be too late for millions of people. Antiquated state systems will take some time to process any new relief. They are also coping with a new surge of unemployment claims spurred by the latest lockdown orders.
To add insult to potential industry, states are now trying to claw back alleged overpayments to workers, particularly independent contractors like many in the entertainment industry who were not typically eligible for unemployment, but received money as part of the CARES Act in March.
Notices to repay thousands of dollars are arriving to those already devastated by long-term unemployment, with prospects dim to find new jobs because of the pandemic restrictions. Now, benefits may be reduced, and liens could be placed on homes to compensate the voracious state coffers.
Overall, those looking toward their states or federal government for relief are hoping for a holiday miracle. Given the circumstances and past performance on critical funding, that’s apparently what it’s going to take to save them.
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