COVID-19 has not gone away — thousands of new cases are admitted to hospitals each week — but it’s no longer considered a pandemic-level crisis.
And that means some of the federal government’s emergency programs designed to cut Americans financial slack in such unprecedented times are going away, even though the cost of living has not returned to pre-pandemic levels.
As those programs wind down (or return to normal) expenses will rise for the many families that have depended on them, amid already tough inflation.
Following is a look at some programs that are ending, including when they expire and what will change when they do.
Federal student loan payment pause
In early 2020, the federal government suspended student loan payments and temporarily set the interest rates for such loans to 0%, so borrowers would not accrue interest during the payment pause period. But that program is ending.
For the first time in three years, borrowers will soon be expected to make payments on their federal student loans. Interest charges will begin accruing on Sept. 1, and payments will be due starting in October.
Those with loans should view the U.S. Department of Education’s guide for getting ready to resume repayment. It covers how to check your payment amount, when your payments are due, options to change your payment plan and other important details.
The average student loan payment is expected to be more than $200.
Additional child care funding
Pandemic child care funding provided through a federal law known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will expire at the end of September.
This will affect about 3.2 million children, according to the Century Foundation. It also is expected to result in the loss of as many as 232,000 jobs in child care.
The average annual cost of child care is more than $10,000 per year for one child, and it can be double that in some states. If you need help managing costs, check out “6 Ideas to Help Parents Save on Child Care.”
Continuous Medicaid enrollment
Another pandemic-era federal law, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020, included a requirement that Medicaid keep participants continuously enrolled throughout the federally declared public health emergency, KFF explains. Medicaid is the health insurance program for people with low incomes, jointly run by state and federal governments.
That law was changed at the end of 2022, causing the continuous enrollment policy to end after March 2023. States were able to resume the normal enrollment and renewal process after that.
Most states expect to take a year or more to complete the renewals, but people who are no longer eligible for Medicaid and are unable to find new coverage will be left without. As many as 6.2 million people stand to lose health insurance during this period, according to federal estimates.
Food stamp work requirement pause
SNAP benefits, more commonly known as food stamps, generally enforces work requirements to maintain eligibility. Participants are expected to apply for jobs, take anything suitable and otherwise accept job training unless they have a valid exception to the rules, such as taking care of a young child or having a disability.
Those requirements were suspended during the pandemic but are resuming. Consequently, close to 1 million low-income adults could possibly lose benefits beginning in October, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The average benefit that will be lost is about $235 per person per month.
While there are other ways to get groceries for free, it may be difficult to entirely make up for that amount.