'Christmas cliff' looms for millions of Americans on the verge of losing their unemployment benefits

It’s being called the “Christmas Cliff.” On Dec. 26, millions of Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic, adding another layer of stress for those who are jobless this holiday.

Thus far, there is no sign Congress will strike a deal.

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The benefits expiring are federal unemployment benefits provided by Congress to freelance, self-employed and part-time workers who don’t typically qualify for unemployment, as well as benefits for those who have exhausted state benefits. 

Estimates are that 12 million people will be impacted. 

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“It’s really going to strain us a lot,” said Donna Zeigfinger, who lives in Maryland and has worked as a travel agent for 23 years. “And I’m nervous and stressed.”

“I feel like our government has failed us as American people,” said Angela Moore, who runs her own entertainment company in northern Virginia.

“With the 26th of December  coming up, I can promise you all the money I put away last year is all but gone,” said Yale Beverly, a Marylander and IT project management coordinator. 

They said they feel abandoned in a time of need like no other. 

“Twenty years ago you could not have convinced me that America would be a country that would be paralyzed by a pandemic and people on both sides of the aisle would refuse to work together to help the American people,” said Beverly.

In D.C., there is some relief. Mayor Muriel
Bowser has authorized a $1,200 stimulus check for 20,000 residents eligible for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that’s expiring.

Unique Morris-Hughes, Director of D.C.’s Department of Employment Services, said she believes Congress will extend the benefits, it’s just a question of when. 

“Many, not only District residents but Americans, are going to reach this cliff where there is no funding available,” said Morris-Hughes. “So I am very optimistic. I think it’s within the realm of possibility, and we’re sitting on pins and needles to get word that benefits are coming.”

Just days after benefits are set to expire on the 26th, the federal ban on evictions will also expire as the year ends.