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Unemployment Benefits Will End Soon for 7.5 Million Americans. These Extended Pandemic-Aid Programs Could Help

Amira Karaoud | Reuters

In just a few weeks, enhanced federal unemployment insurance put in place during the coronavirus pandemic will end as the delta variant continues to threaten the economic recovery.

Some 7.5 million Americans will be abruptly left without benefits, and millions more will see smaller weekly unemployment checks as a result.

At the same time, a few other pandemic-era programs have recently been extended and may offer help to those still out of work, or offset some of the loss of the extra money.

Here's what unemployed Americans may be able to rely on in the coming months.

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1. Eviction moratorium

In early August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new federal eviction ban just days after the previous moratorium expired on July 31.

Some 80% to 90% of renters are protected under the new rules, which ban evictions in areas with "high" or "substantial" levels of coronavirus infections. The current eviction moratorium lasts until Oct. 3.

The new program gives renters and landlords extra time to apply for and receive the more than $46 billion in emergency rental funds approved by Congress. Those struggling to pay rent or in danger of eviction should apply through their state as soon as possible, as even having a pending application can offer protection.

2. Nutrition benefits

Starting in October, benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, will increase across the board for the first time since 1975. The average adjustment will be a roughly 25% bump from pre-pandemic levels.

The average increase will be $36.24 more per person, per month, or about $1.19 more per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the average benefit was about $121 per person on a monthly basis.

"It's pretty important for low-income families with kids," said Lauren Bauer, a fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and associated with The Hamilton Project.

For those who already receive SNAP benefits, no further action is needed to get the boost come October. If you might be eligible for SNAP but don't currently receive it, you can apply for the aid through your state of residence.

There are also other nutrition benefits that will help children. Over the summer, electronic benefit transfers will continue for eligible children. And, in the fall, schools will offer universal free meals to all children, benefitting a lot more kids than normal, according to Bauer.

3. Student loan payment pause

The U.S. Department of Education in August extended the moratorium on payment and interest of federal student loans one final time, through Jan. 31, 2022.

That means that some 42 million borrowers with student debt don't have to make a payment on most federal loans until next February and won't see their balances grow.

In the meantime, people who are worried that they won't be able to resume payments in February or pay as much per month as they used to, should check in with their student loan servicers now. They may be able to switch payment plans, meaning they'd owe less each month.

4. Enhanced child tax credit

For those with eligible children, the child tax credit may be providing some additional relief as unemployment insurance ends. In August, the IRS and U.S. Department of the Treasury sent some $15 billion in monthly advance payments to 61 million kids.

That was the second of six payments from the enhanced child tax credit, which started in July. The enhanced credit boosted the existing benefit to $3,000 from $2,000 and added a $600 bonus for kids under the age of 6 for the 2021 tax year.

Half of the credit is being distributed to families in monthly installments from July to December — for families receiving the full credit, it will be $300 per month for children under age 6 and $250 per month for those from 6 to 17.

The average payment in August was $428, according to the IRS and Treasury. Families are set to receive four more monthly payments through the end of the year and will get the second half of the credit when they file their 2021 tax returns next year.

More aid on the table

There may also be more aid on the way in coming months. The $3.5 trillion budget proposal released by Democrats would expand many social safety net programs and provide more relief for Americans.

It would especially benefit low-income workers and those with children. If passed, the budget would expand the child tax credit, earned income tax credit, child and dependent care tax credit and paid family and medical leave, according to an outline of the plan.

It would also extend universal pre-K to 3- and 4-year-old children, expand childcare benefits for working families and make community college tuition-free.

House Democrats are looking to move forward on the sprawling budget resolution as soon as next week. At the same time, Democrats also hope to approve a $1 trillion infrastructure plan.   

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