Many Americans are heading for a financial cliff this fall as key COVID-19 relief measures hit their scheduled expiration dates.
Tens of millions will be thrust into financial uncertainty, at a time when the U.S. is averaging over 150,000 new coronavirus cases per day due to the rampant spread of the delta variant, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
Advocates, politicians and everyday Americans are rallying for a fourth pandemic stimulus check. It’s not likely to happen — but there are other ways that U.S. households struggling to pay bills and deal with debt can make up for the aid that will soon be lost.
Time is running out on several forms of emergency assistance that were included in the $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package President Joe Biden signed in mid-March.
The law is probably best known for the $1,400 stimulus checks — the third direct payments of the COVID crisis — that were distributed to most Americans,
Here are the stimulus programs that are winding down now, with their cutoff dates.
1. Supersize unemployment benefits
Biden’s American Rescue Plan granted a $300-per-week boost to anyone receiving unemployment benefits. Those extra payouts officially end on Sept. 6, Labor Day, though more than two dozen states cut off the federal pandemic benefits early.
The holiday also is the expiration date for a program that has provided unemployment checks to gig workers and independent contractors during the crisis, and for an emergency extension that’s been giving jobless Americans an extra 13 weeks of benefits.
2. COBRA health insurance assistance
Under the March relief law, the government has been paying 100% of the health insurance premiums of laid-off workers who keep their job-based coverage through what’s called the COBRA law. But that benefit runs out Sept. 30, and people who’ve been taking advantage of it may need to find new health insurance.
That’s because COBRA is expensive. Those who use it must shoulder the entire cost of an employer health plan, which averages $1,715 a month for a family, according to the most recent research from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
3. Monthly child tax credit payments
Since July 15, households with kids have been receiving monthly “family stimulus checks” under a one-year expansion of the child tax credit. The payments will total as much as $1,800 for each child under age 6, and $1,500 for kids ages 6 through 17.
But the final check is scheduled for Dec. 15. Democrats in Congress are trying to keep the beefed-up child credit going by including an extension in a $3.5 trillion spending plan now in the works.
4. Eviction ban (though rent relief is still available)
A U.S. Supreme Court decision has brought an early end to a nationwide eviction moratorium that was scheduled to run through Oct. 3. More than 3.5 million renters say eviction is “very” or “somewhat” likely within the next two months, according to census data.
The last two COVID stimulus packages provided $46.6 billion in rent relief money, but only 11% of the aid had been given out to renters by late July, the U.S. Treasury reported. You apply for the rental assistance through state and local housing agencies; the administration is cutting red tape to help them speed things along.
What about a fourth stimulus check?
As the pandemic safety net shrinks while COVID delta surges, many are hoping the government will come through with a fourth stimulus check.
An online petition that calls for monthly payments of $2,000 for every adult in the U.S. and $1,000 per child — through the end of the crisis — has gotten more than 2.8 million signatures, on its way to a goal of 3 million.
But there’s no sign of another relief payment on the horizon. Congress is now on its summer recess until mid-September. Before lawmakers left Washington, the priorities were a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure spending bill and the $3.5 trillion Democratic budget bill.
That massive spending blueprint does not include a new stimulus check. To pass the legislation, Democratic leaders will have to win over moderate members of their party in the Senate — who were not completely keen on the last check.
The White House hasn’t suggested that a relief payment be added to the budget legislation. Instead, officials have pointed out that Americans are getting ample amounts of other aid, like the child tax credit payments.
What if you need immediate relief?
You can’t count on another check from Washington to help you keep the bills paid and keep your family fed as the pandemic lingers. Instead, you’ll have to find additional money on your own. Here are a few places to look:
If you’re carrying multiple credit card balances and other high-interest debt, you might roll them into a single debt consolidation loan. You’ll have only one payment to budget around, the lower interest rate will slash the cost of your debt, and you may be able to pay it off faster.
Do you own a home? Thirty-year mortgage rates remain comfortably below 3%, and if you haven’t refinanced lately you could be missing out on major savings. Nearly half the homeowners who refinanced over the last year are saving $300 or more per month, according to a recent Zillow survey.
Prices can be all over the place when you shop online, so make sure you don’t overpay. Download a free browser add-on that will automatically hunt for lower prices and coupons before you click “buy.”
You don’t need another stimulus check — or much money at all — to earn returns in today’s steadily rising stock market. A popular app helps you invest in a diversified portfolio using little more than your “spare change” from everyday purchases.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.