Stephanie Ferguson Stephanie Ferguson
Director, Global Employment Policy & Special Initiatives, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


December 02, 2020


This holiday season is not so merry and bright for 20 million Americans who are currently claiming unemployment insurance benefits. The coming of the new year is especially grim for the 12 million individuals who are estimated to be left without any pandemic compensation come December 26, 2020. Now, more than ever, a relief package needs to be passed.

The CARES Act, which passed in March, established two federally funded programs in response to the economic strife caused by the pandemic: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. PUA provides unemployment insurance (UI) for individuals who normally do not qualify for regular state UI. PEUC provides 13 additional weeks of benefits for individuals who have exhausted their UI. The CARES Act set funding for these programs to expire on December 26, 2020. As a result, 12 million claimants are expected to be left without these benefits once the programs are halted. Furthermore, roughly 4 million claimants will exhaust their benefits between then and now.

Below is a breakdown of claimants whose programs are set to expire.

  • 7.3 million claimants will still be on PUA when funding expires December 26
  • 950,000 claimants will exhaust PUA benefits before December 26
  • 4.6 million claimants will still be on PEUC when funding expires December 26
  • 3.5 million claimants will exhaust PEUC before December 26

These numbers account 16 million individuals who are expected to lose CARES Act UI programs by the new year. However, roughly 3 million of these claimants may be eligible for Extended Benefits (EB). EB are normally partially state-funded and is currently available in only 36 states and territories. The precise number of claimants who will be left without any UI after the new year is difficult to calculate given the numerous programs with variable availability, newly laid off workers, and claimants who gain employment. That being said, more than 9 million individuals are expected to have zero UI as of January 1.

The situation is dire. The Chamber previously stated that the US has 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the Great Shutdown in March. Furthermore, the Chamber has projected that the US will not regain the jobs lost during the pandemic until February 2022. This economic climate necessitates an additional relief package before President-Elect Biden’s inauguration. Specifically, the Chamber will continue to advocate for support for individuals, businesses, and state and local governments. Without these provisions, the US can expect more businesses to shut their doors and millions of families to fall below the poverty line.

About the authors

Stephanie Ferguson

Stephanie Ferguson

Stephanie Ferguson is the Director of Global Employment Policy & Special Initiatives. Her work on the labor shortage has been cited in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Associated Press.

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