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Unemployment Benefits Ended for Millions of Americans. These Extended Pandemic Programs May Provide Help

Amira Karaoud | Reuters

Enhanced federal unemployment insurance put in place during the coronavirus pandemic ended this weekend, after nearly a year and a half.

That means some 9 million people will lose all benefits and another 3 million will see weekly checks reduced by $300, according to an estimate by The Century Foundation.

The end of the federal unemployment insurance programs comes as the delta variant of coronavirus continues to threaten the economic recovery from the pandemic and sweeping lockdowns to curb the disease last year.

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. Of course, many of these programs have specific eligibility requirements, so not all unemployed Americans will necessarily be able to access them.

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

1. State eviction protection

Though the Supreme Court struck down the most recent extension to the federal eviction ban, renters in some states may still be protected by local moratoriums.

States such as California, Illinois, New Mexico and New York have eviction bans in place that give renters protection for a few more months.

In addition, those at risk of being evicted should apply for rental assistance if they haven't already. Even though the federal eviction moratorium is no longer in place, having just a pending application for government assistance could help renters stay in their homes longer — states such as Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Oregon and Washington state have adopted such rules.

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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 have continued for eligible children. Come 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.

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.

Of course, back and forth on the legislation continues as Democrats rush to write the details, which could change.

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