Millions of Americans will face higher bills this fall—and not because of inflation
This fall will bring an end to safety-net programs that started during the pandemic, boosting bills for millions of Americans.
Since 2020, Congress has passed a series of financial relief programs. Many of them—including student loan assistance, expanded Medicaid, child care funding, and food assistance—are just about to end.
The timing isn’t good for many Americans.
For the first time, household debt has passed $17 trillion, led by credit card balances, according to the Fed. Meanwhile, the interest on this mountain of debt is growing at the fastest clip since the 1970s.
Here’s a look at four programs expiring this fall and whom they’ll hit the hardest.
Student Loan Forbearance
End date: August, 2023
Americans affected: 43 million
The CARES Act was a sweeping $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed in March 2020. One part of this bill gave students a break from loans owned by the U.S. Department of Education.
Interest rates fell to 0%, and collections on any defaulted loans were halted.
Originally, the forbearance was set to expire at the end of September of 2020. The end date, however, has been pushed back several times and was last set for the end of this month.
This means that more than 44 million students have not made a single loan payment for over three years.
This relief provision ends on August 31, 2023 and interest on federal student loans will begin to accrue in September of this year.
The end of this pandemic-era benefit has a far-reaching impact.
Consider that the outstanding federal loan balance is $1.64 trillion, accounting for over 92% of all student loan debt, according to the Education Data Initiative.
The same body of research shows that the average federal student loan debt balance is just over $37,700.
Continuous Medicaid Coverage
End date: June, 2024
Americans affected: 8-24 million
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was signed into law in March of 2020.
One of the many parts of this bill included increased federal Medicaid funding. To receive funds, states were prohibited from ending coverage for most Medicaid enrollees until the end of the pandemic.
In short, this meant that Medicaid agencies were not permitted to disenroll anyone from Medicaid unless they asked to be disenrolled, moved to a different state, or died.
Due, in large part, to provisions like this, the number of Americans without health insurance fell to a record low of 8% last year.
At the end of last year, however, Congress deemed that this protection would end on March 31, 2023.
The process of ending continuous Medicaid coverage, however, is gradual. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) grants states an unwinding period of up to 14 months.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, an estimated 8 to 24 million Americans will lose Medicaid coverage during the unwinding of the continuous enrollment provision.
Child Care Funding
End date: September 2023
Americans affected: 3.2 million
The American Rescue Plan Act provided over $52 billion to support childcare.
This helped families access child care during the pandemic through funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and funding for Child Care Stabilization grants.
As a result, about 220,000 childcare providers were kept afloat during the pandemic, allowing them to care for up to an estimated 10 million children and save more than 1 million childcare jobs.
However, on September 30, 2023, more than $37 billion in childcare funding will end.
This will impact the majority of child care centers, given that the program assisted more than 8 in 10 licensed child care centers.
As the Century Foundation explains, “70,000 child care programs—one-third of those supported by American Rescue Plan stabilization funding—will likely close, and approximately 3.2 million children could lose their child care spots.”
Families will likely need to scale back their working hours, costing them as much as $9 billion a year in total lost wages, according to the same report.
Food Stamp Assistance
End date: October, 2023
Americans affected: 750,000
Before the pandemic, certain adults were required to work in order to receive food stamps. Once the pandemic started, Congress removed this requirement.
That’s about to change again. Starting in October, the program’s work-reporting requirement comes back into effect.
Moving forward, unemployed able-bodied adults without dependents are eligible for only three months of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
And starting this fall, the work-reporting age limit will widen.
As a result of the recent debt ceiling deal, the requirement will extend to adults up to age 54—which means 750,000 adults aged 50-54 could lose their food assistance.