College students across the nation are angered by the stimulus package presented in the CARES act, specifically their exclusion from the $1,200 stimulus checks. As outlined in the bill, adults with incomes under $75,000 will receive a $1,200 check, couples filing jointly will receive $2,400, and those with children will receive $500 for each additional child.[i] Despite initial misconceptions that every adult in the United States would receive a check, a closer look at the wording of the bill excludes dependents from receiving any money. The term dependent refers to a child under the age of 19, a young adult under the age of 24 who is a full-time student, or disabled adults under the care of another individual. A dependent must also provide less than half of their own “support”, including shelter, food, clothing, medical care, transportation, personal expenses, entertainment and recreation.[ii] While a large proportion of college students may qualify as dependents, that does not necessarily mean that this population is not struggling financially as a result of the economic hits produced by the Covid-19 outbreak. The exclusion of this population from the stimulus package equates to a significant gap in the relief provided to Americans, at large.
While a large proportion of college students may be residing with the individuals who claim them during this outbreak, there is still a large population who reside elsewhere, such as in college towns across the nation. Common forms of employment for these students include working at local restaurants and other small businesses, the type of establishments that are greatly affected by the current economic downfall. As unemployment filings skyrocketed last week, with 3.3 million unemployment filings according to the Department of Labor, people across the nation are facing significant economic uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. Hence, the economic stimulus package is providing essential support. The exclusion of this demographic may be a serious oversight and leave many college students without the economic help they need. However, the line must be drawn somewhere, and there are other demographics excluded from the stimulus checks, as well.
Dependents at large are excluded from the stimulus, and so there is question as to whether disabled adults who are claimed by their caretakers will receive the stimulus checks or not. Individuals who receive Social Security benefits for retirement or disability, are indeed eligible for the full amount of the check, so long as their income does not exceed the $75,000 annual cap. [iii] This does not account, however, for adults with disabilities who are claimed as dependents and do not receive Social Security. Another group of people ineligible for the stimulus checks are any individuals who owe previous child support.[iv] Those who make between $75,000 to $99,000 annually will receive a reduced stimulus check, with $5 subtracted from the stimulus check for every $100 an individual makes over the $75,000 threshold.[v] The basis for determining income level will come from 2019 tax filings if applicable, and 2018 tax filings if the 2019 taxes have yet to be filed. This poses the issue of those who have not filed taxes in 2018 or 2019 and whether this population will be excluded from the stimulus checks. The IRS suggests filing as soon as possible if this is the case, as “Those without 2018 tax filings on record could potentially affect mailings of stimulus checks.”[vi]
There is a significant amount of confusion regarding the economic stimulus package coming for Americans. Many groups will be excluded from receiving a check, despite misconceptions that we will all miraculously be $1,200 richer in the next few weeks. Of course, maintaining a sense of realism is essential, and many also do not realize the package is already a $2 trillion-dollar stimulus, even with the exclusions of several demographics. Lines do have to be drawn, but the exclusion of dependent college students may be a significant oversight. Going forward, transparency surrounding the stimulus checks is essential to avoiding excessive confusion and upheaval.