Millions of Americans may lose coronavirus aid the day after Christmas unless Congress finally acts

·3 min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Millions of vulnerable Americans could stand to lose crucial aid lawmakers provided amid the coronavirus pandemic immediately after the Christmas holiday if Congress fails to pass sweeping recovery measures, according to new estimates published Wednesday.

Pandemic unemployment assistance benefits for more than seven million gig workers like Uber drivers and others may be in jeopardy come late December when funding for the program was scheduled to expire.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, another program established in response to the Covid-19 outbreak, would likely be thrown into an unstable position in several states when federal funds were also scheduled to expire. The program relied on federal funding to help states put up the budgets necessary to provide an estimated 4.6 million workers with extended unemployment aid.

The estimates were published by a progressive think tank called The Century Foundation and first reported by HuffPost. The foundation’s analysts said the expiration of such benefits could put families “at high risk for insecurity and loss of their homes” as the pandemic continued to rage on in the US.

“Without unemployment benefits and with savings badly depleted, families will be at high risk for food insecurity and loss of their homes, and many may be unable to pay for health care during some of the darkest days of the pandemic,” Andrew Stettner and Elizabeth Pancotti, analysts behind the foundation’s research, wrote in the analysis. “The nation’s entire economy will suffer.”

With reports indicating the pandemic has killed as many as 250,000 Americans so far, and with millions still unemployed and facing an increasingly grim financial outlook for the winter months, Congress has been urged into action — with few tangible results thus far.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to negotiate on a relief bill after months of discussions failed to deliver a final product, writing in a letter: “For the sake of the country, we ask that you come to the table and work with us to produce an agreement that meets America’s needs in this critical time.”

As HuffPost noted, Congress could pass several measures extending current benefits to unemployed Americans and other receiving aid through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act passed earlier this year.

The House has since passed the weeping HEROES Act, which extends many of those benefits and provide states with funding to continue enforcing lockdown measures, but the Republican-led Senate has refused to bring the bill to a vote.

Senate Democrats are calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take action on providing further pandemic aid, saying in a statement: “In the face of mass death and economic devastation, Mitch McConnell is doing nothing to provide relief to American families.”

Congress has options to act before the holiday season, including a 11 December deadline to pass a funding bill that could provide an extension of the unemployment benefits impacting an estimated 12 million, according to The Century Foundation.

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