Your Ultimate List of Federal Program Extensions for 2021

There’s no doubt about it: 2020 was a dumpster fire. To help throw some water on the flames, the federal government passed a lot of programs to provide financial assistance for people facing tough times due to the pandemic. The aid is far from comprehensive, but at least it helps plug the leaking holes a little bit. 

The problem, though, is that there’s so many programs, each with their own expiration dates and requirements to qualify. Most of these program names sound redundant. And a lot of them are optional for states, so it’s hard to know whether you’ll even qualify based on where you live. 

We’ll help you sort through some of this mess with this comprehensive list of federal programs that were enacted. You’ll also find where to go to get more details, which is especially important because these programs are changing every day. 

Federal Student Loan Forbearance

What is it: Payments are temporarily paused and no interest accrues on federal student loans.

Who’s eligible: People with federal student loans.

Dates available: March 20, 2020 – September 30, 2021

Where to get the latest info: Department of Education

A lot of people rejoiced when the Department of Education announced that payments would be suspended on federal student loans. Right now, all federally-held loans are in “administrative forbearance” at 0% interest, so there’s no penalty for taking a break. 

Even better, if you’re going for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), these non-payment months still count toward PSLF requirements as long as you’re still working for an eligible employer.

The unfortunate part is that this only applies to federal loans, though. If you have private student loans — and that’s about 8% of all debt — it’s up to your lender whether they’ll give you a break or not. 

Federal Mortgage Forbearance and Foreclosure Moratorium

What is it: You can request forbearance on federally-backed mortgages, and you can’t be foreclosed on if you don’t pay. 

Who’s eligible: People with FHA, USDA, or VA mortgages, or mortgages held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

Dates available: A moratorium on foreclosures until either March 31, 2021 (for FHA or USDA loans) or February 28, 2021 (for VA loans, and those held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).

Where to get the latest info: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

The federal government isn’t involved in all mortgages. But if you have a federally-backed mortgage, you get some protections here. Specifically, you can request forbearance (i.e., a temporary pause in payments) for up to two 180-day periods due to the coronavirus. This means you could put off your mortgage payments for up to a year, if you qualify (although it’s best to start repaying as soon as you can). 

On the other hand, if you aren’t in forbearance or if you’re already behind on your payments, normally you’d be at risk of foreclosure. However, there’s a moratorium on foreclosures right now for these types of mortgages. Once those dates have passed, though, you can still be foreclosed on so it’s best to get a hold of your lender in advance to see what your options are.

Rental Eviction Moratorium

What is it: A moratorium on evictions for not paying your rent.

Who’s eligible: People who aren’t able to pay rent due to financial hardships.

Dates available: September 4, 2020 – March 31, 2021

Where to get the latest info: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

There are many moratoriums on evicting renters around the country. But on a federal level, there’s currently one in place from the CDC banning all evictions due to non-payment right now. It’s not automatic, though. To make sure you’re covered, you need to sign a Declaration from the CDC and deliver it to your landlord. 

Even then, it’s still not a free pass: you can be evicted for other reasons, too, like not following the rules or engaging in criminal activity. Make sure you’re on good behavior so you don’t give your landlord another reason to evict you.

Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program

What is it: A new $25 billion fund for paying overdue rent and utilities.

Who’s eligible: Renters who meet income requirements and/or risk homelessness.

Dates available: January 20, 2021 – December, 31, 2021

Where to get the latest info: Department of the Treasury

On December 27, the Consolidated Appropriations Act was passed into law, which created a $25 billion pot of money for state, local, and tribal governments to use to help people catch up on their past-due rent and utility bills. 

In general, renters must show that they’ve either 1) been unemployed or experienced a severe income drop or significant expense due to COVID-19, 2) are at risk of becoming homeless, or 3) has a household income at or below 80% of the area’s median income. 

Program recipients will have funds paid out directly to your landlord or utility provider (unless your landlord declines to participate in the program, that is — then it’ll be paid directly to you so you can repay them).

Coronavirus Tax Filing Extension

What is it: A tax filing extension for people who need more time to get their taxes done.

Who’s eligible: Anyone who hasn’t filed their 2019 taxes yet.

Dates available: Tax deadline is postponed from April 15 to July 15 (or October 15 if you requested an extension).

Where to get the latest info: IRS 

Getting your taxes done can take some time. Last year, the pandemic started right as the tax season was kicking off, throwing a wrench in everyone’s tax plans (and life plans, for that matter). It’s possible we’ll see a similar extension in 2021 for people filing their 2020 taxes, but that remains yet to be seen. Check the IRS website for the latest details. 

Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)

What is it: Adds up to an extra $600 per week to your unemployment benefits.

Who’s eligible: People who are claiming unemployment assistance through their state programs.

Dates available: March 27, 2020 – July 31, 2020, and December 27, 2020 – March 13, 2021

Where to get the latest info: Your state’s Unemployment Insurance office

Normally, if you need to claim unemployment assistance, you’re capped at receiving up to $240 to $823 per week, depending on which state you live in. The FPUC program expanded that amount, though, so that states could choose to offer up to an additional $600 in weekly unemployment payments. 

That program ended on July 31, 2020, but it was re-established with a new payment amount ($300, instead of $600) for people claiming unemployment benefits from December 27, 2020 – March 13, 2021. 

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

What is it: Adds on another 24 weeks of eligibility to getting unemployment benefits.

Who’s eligible: People who are claiming unemployment assistance through their state programs.

Dates available: March 27, 2020 — March 14, 2021

Where to get the latest info: Your state’s Unemployment Insurance office

Again, normally you’re able to claim up to 26 weeks of unemployment assistance in most states if you need help. What we saw with the pandemic early on, though, was that many people blew right past that limit through no fault of their own. It is a pandemic, after all. 

This program allows states to extend their unemployment programs so people are eligible for even longer — 24 weeks longer than normal, to be exact. And if you reach the end of this safety net, you’re still eligible to apply for PUA, below. 

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

What is it: Expands unemployment assistance to people who normally don’t qualify, including those who are self-employed, who run out of other unemployment benefits, or who are working part-time. 

Who’s eligible: People who live in certain states.

Dates available: For up to 50 weeks of unemployment from January 27, 2020 – March 14, 2020.

Where to get the latest info: Your state’s Unemployment Insurance office

If you don’t work for an employer, such as if you’re self-employed, a freelancer, gig worker, independent contractor, etc…, normally you’re not eligible for unemployment assistance. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be affected by the pandemic, and to help people like you, the PUA program was established. 

This program allows people who don’t normally qualify for unemployment insurance — including those who’ve run out of their other unemployment assistance benefits — access to that pot of money. 

Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation (MEUC)

What is it: Adds another $100 per week to people claiming unemployment assistance and who have side hustles. 

Who’s eligible: People with day jobs and who earned at least $5,000 in self-employment income last year.

Dates available: December 27, 2020 – March 14, 2021

Where to get the latest info: Your state’s Unemployment Insurance office

A lot of people these days work a side hustle to bring in extra income. But until now, you had to choose: apply for unemployment benefits for the income you lost from your job, or for the income you lost from self-employment (through the PUA program). You couldn’t choose both. 

The MEUC program (if your state participates) changes that so that if you earned at least $5,000 in self-employment income last year, you’re eligible for an additional $100 weekly payment. The only catch is that you have to have applied for unemployment benefits under any program other than PUA. 

In other words, if you lost some side hustle income but the real hit was your day job income, this program can help bridge that gap.

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