Chattanooga nonprofits prepare as 12 million Americans stand to lose unemployment benefits

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Community Foundation Greater Chattanooga. Image: WTVC.{ }

12 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits the day after Christmas as two key CARES Act programs are set to expire. According to a new report by the Century Foundation, this will affect 116,000 Tennesseans.

As the clock ticks for Congress to come to an agreement on a second stimulus bill, non-profits in our area are bracing for greater need in our community.

As Congress eyes a Thanksgiving recess, time is running out and the stakes are high for Americans who have relied on CARES Act benefits.

"Well the CARES act the president signed in March was an important part of the economic rebound of the nation, and also of just helping individual men and woman here in Tennessee in many ways," said U.S. Secretary of Labor, Eugene Scalia .

Two key CARES Act programs are set to end the day after Christmas: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC).

The two programs extend benefits to people who wouldn't qualify under typical state benefits. PUA extends benefits to self employed and gig workers not typically eligible for unemployment benefits. PEUC is a program that applies to W2 workers who do qualify under typical unemployment insurance, but can continue to receive benefits for longer due to the pandemic.

"Whether they were a regular worker or a gig worker they’re going to get cut off December 26th because all of these benefits are ending," said Andrew Stettner who authored the Century Foundation report.

In Tennessee the end of the two programs mean more than 116 thousand Tennesseans will be losing their only source of income.

"A basic unemployment benefit of 250 to 300 dollars a week helps people prevent these extreme hardships ... that can be the thin line between keeping your head above water or falling into a dark abyss," said Stettner.

Non-profits in our area are preparing for that reality.

"We’ll see a real increase for non profit services those frontline organizations providing food, rental assistance, utility assistance," said Meaghan Jones with The Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.

Jones says non-profits were busiest in March during the shutdown, but in recent week she said that need is spiking again.

According to the United Way of Chattanooga, there 211 help hotline has seen a surge in calls in recent weeks as well. Those calls had spiked in March during the shutdown but are now on the rise again.

"I think we’re seeing people coming to the end of their benefits and their anticipating that their not going to make that December rent, that utility payment in January and so their starting to come to say what are going to be those resources to create that safety net," said Jones.

While our local non-profits brace for a reality where benefits aren’t extended, Stettner says Congress still has time to act.

" There's always a set of things that needs to be done by the end of the year before Congress goes. This needs to go on that list. Extending unemployment benefits and giving people a bridge for when the economy can safely and securely reopen," said Stettner.