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On The Money: 12 million to lose federal unemployment benefits after Christmas | Warren urges Biden to cancel student debt | Stocks close with losses as states, cities reimpose COVID-19 restrictions

On The Money: 12 million to lose federal unemployment benefits after Christmas | Warren urges Biden to cancel student debt | Stocks close with losses as states, cities reimpose COVID-19 restrictions
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Happy Wednesday and welcome back to On The Money. I’m Sylvan Lane, and here’s your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line.

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Write us with tips, suggestions and news: slane@thehill.com, njagoda@thehill.com and nelis@thehill.com. Follow us on Twitter: @SylvanLane, @NJagoda and @NivElis.

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THE BIG DEAL—12 million to lose federal unemployment benefits after Christmas: Twelve million people would lose federal benefits the day after Christmas if Congress does not pass extensions for key unemployment programs, according to a study by The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank.

“Absent congressional action to extend CARES Act benefits, December 26 will mark the end of one of the last lifelines available to millions of Americans in desperate need,” said Andrew Stettner, who co-authored the study with Elizabeth Pancotti. “It will be a crippling end to one of our darkest years.”

Congress passed a slew of expanded benefits programs in the CARES Act, March’s emergency COVID-19 relief bill. 

  • One program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, expanded eligibility to the self-employed and gig economy workers, a group that normally is not eligible for unemployment benefits. The program will have 7.3 million people on it when it expires the last week of December, with 945,000 people losing the support earlier.
  • Another program, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, provided an extension of benefits after the 26 weeks most states offer ran out. If that program expires at year’s end, 4.6 million workers would lose benefits. Another 3.5 million will have already used up the benefits before that point.

The Hill’s Niv Elis breaks it down here.

No progress in sight: The prospects of Congress moving to extend the programs remain murky. While both Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight MORE (R-Ky.) have called for some level of relief, the two remain hundreds of billions of dollars apart on how large the bill should be. They have yet to schedule or sit down for any formal negotiations.

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LEADING THE DAY

Warren urges Biden to cancel student debt: 'Single biggest stimulus we could add' Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mnuchin to put 5B in COVID-19 relief funds beyond successor's reach No, the government cannot seize, break or 'bypass' pharmaceutical patents — even for COVID-19 MORE (D-Mass.) on Tuesday urged President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' MORE to cancel student debt, calling it the “single biggest stimulus” for the ailing economy, a claim economists dispute.

Speaking at The New York Times's Dealbook Summit, Warren said that student debt cancellation was part of Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year Mexican president breaks with other world leaders, refusing to acknowledge Biden win until election is finalized MORE’s election mandate.

“For me it is a mandate to Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to do the things we can do, to cancel student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans, [the] single biggest stimulus we could add to the economy,” she said.

Niv Elis has more here.

Stocks close with losses as states, cities reimpose COVID-19 restrictions: The stock market closed with losses Wednesday after reversing from earlier gains, closing in the red for the second consecutive day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a loss of 345 points, falling 1.2 percent after rising by more than 140 points earlier in the day. The S&P 500 also closed with a loss of 1.2 percent, and the Nasdaq composite fell 0.8 percent.

Stocks have whipsawed over the past two weeks as investors see encouraging progress toward two COVID-19 vaccines amid severely rising coronavirus cases. 

  • More than 250,000 Americans have died from complications of COVID-19, and the U.S. has recorded more than 100,000 new cases every day since the Nov. 3 election. 
  • And while vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer could be available to front-line workers and high-risk individuals as soon as next month, it could take until April for vaccines to be widely available to the general public.

I have more here.

GOOD TO KNOW

ODDS AND ENDS

  • President-elect Joe Biden is eyeing the departments of Agriculture and Transportation as key partners for achieving his climate goals, exciting progressives by broadening efforts beyond traditional environmental agencies.
  • Op-Ed: Former Rep. George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) argues why “The future of 'fintech' is at stake for Biden and the Senate”