Additional funding for unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions that were approved as part of a federal coronavirus relief package are expiring today.
While there is fierce debate in Congress over the possibility of another round of stimulus, nothing is set in stone.
Questions linger about the future of emergency moratoriums on rent, debt and other facets of daily life, but the issue getting the most attention is the loss of an additional $600 in weekly unemployment benefits.
The initial $2.2 billion CARES Act stimulus provided emergency funding to businesses and private citizens as coronavirus mitigation efforts were introduced and the economy shrunk in response.
In Mississippi, small businesses benefitted through a loan assistance program, but delays in the state’s outdated unemployment benefits system made accessing the extra funds more difficult for citizens.
Despite delays, unemployment beneficiaries received relief payments backdated to the date of their initial unemployment, not simply the date their application for unemployment benefits was accepted.
Without the supplemental benefits from the federal CARES Act, maximum unemployment benefits in Mississippi amount to $235 each week.
Congressional leaders are split on what should go in a second round of relief. Republicans say the $600 per week provides some jobless people with more money than they could make if they were working, which won’t incentivize people to return to work as the nation experiences unemployment rates on par with the Great Depression. Democrats say many of those lost jobs aren’t coming back and people need a safety net.
The HEALS Act, proposed by Senate Republicans on Monday, includes reducing the amount of weekly benefits from $600 to between $100 and $200 and eventually moving to 70% replacement of one’s lost wages through unemployment benefits in lieu of lump-sum payments.
House Democrats passed the HEROES Act in May which would extend the going rate of $600 per week until 2021, but the bill isn’t likely to pass through the Reppublican-controlled Senate.
In other forms of relief, a state moratorium on utility cut-offs ended June 1, and there were talks of extending it through July, but the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled against that in April.
In Gov. Reeve’s initial coronavirus relief effort, the Safer at Home Order, he called for all places of business deemed unessential to close and subsequently called for a moratorium on certain monetary responsibilities, such as on evictions and utilities payments. But since the state economy has reopened, no extension has been approved.
On Thursday Reeves said the most likely resolution to extending benefits would come from the federal government and not the state. He said Congress would likely extend unemployment benefits but at a lower weekly rate than $600.
Meanwhile, the national moratorium on evictions in federally subsidized housing is set to expire today. That moratorium, written into the CARES Act, hasn’t been extended at the federal level either.