Some of these programs will be renewed. Some won't. It's hard to know at this point which one's will and which ones won't.
-- Cobra subsidy: Workers who are terminated between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009, and are eligible to stay in their group health plan at their own expense under the law known as Cobra can get the government to pay 65 percent of their premium for up to nine months, as long as they are not eligible for Medicare or any other group health plan.
People who started getting the subsidy when it became available March 1 run out after November. People who are still getting the subsidy at year end can continue until it's used up. But people who get laid off after Dec. 31 won't get any subsidy.
What happens with the Cobra program probably depends on what happens with the health care reform bill. A defeat of the health care bill probably means that the Cobra program will be extended.
-- Home-buyer credit: People who buy a home to live in before Dec. 1 and have not owned a home in the past three years can get a tax credit up to $8,000. The credit phases out for higher-income people. To qualify, you must close by Nov. 30.
There is a proposal to expand this program and make it permanent, but that makes little sense. The idea of the program is to stimulate buying. Making the program permanent would mean that people would no longer be in any rush to buy.
Of course common sense never stopped Congress from doing something.
-- Unemployment: The stimulus act increased the weekly unemployment benefit by $25 per week, allowed people to deduct up to $2,400 in benefits on their federal tax return and extended the federal government's extended benefits program, which provides additional compensation to people who have used up their regular state benefits.
In California, a person who exhausted 26 weeks of state benefits could get up to 20 more weeks under the first federal extension, then up to 13 weeks under a second extension and up to 20 weeks more under a third extension. The first and second extensions were supposed to expire in the spring but the stimulus extended them until Dec. 31. The stimulus also provided 100 percent federal funding for the third extension.
All these federal benefits sunset after Dec. 31. A person who was already receiving extended benefits on Jan. 1 could finish that round of benefits, but not start the next extension. A person who was still receiving their regular state benefits on Jan. 1 would get no extended benefits.
This program is the one most likely to be extended. Proposals are already in place to do so, although many people will probably run out of benefits before that happens.
-- New-car deduction: If you buy a new vehicle between Feb. 17 and Dec. 31 of this year, you can deduct the sales tax on up to $49,500 of the purchase price on your federal tax return. The deduction phases out for higher-income taxpayers. This incentive got overshadowed by Cash for Clunkers.
This one is likely to expire.