If Congress doesn’t act, 12 million could lose unemployment aid by the end of the year

The “benefits cliff” on Dec. 26 includes an additional 7.3 million workers on Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the supplemental insurance for gig and self-employed workers, which ends that day, as well as 4.6 million people on Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the unemployment insurance extension available for people who have exhausted regular benefits after what is typically about six months, depending on the state.

“Nobody is talking about this,” Stettner said in an interview. “We’re just careening into this huge cliff and it’s like it’s not even happening. People are just totally, completely ignoring the situation at a time when things are getting worse before they’re going to get better in terms of public health. And that just really is going to constrain people’s ability to get a job when benefits run out.”

The estimates add fuel to the growing sense of alarm among many economists about the risk of severe hardship for millions of households caused by inaction in Washington.

The expiration of benefits could leave some families unable to afford basic payments like food and rent, and others retreating from the type of spending on goods and services that powers the U.S. economy.