The economic stimulus package has failed students

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Many college students across the United States expressed their displeasure with COVID-19 response legislation after it was revealed that the recent economic stimulus package bars many of them from receiving cash assistance during the COVID-19 shutdown. 

The package stipulates that adults who were claimed as dependents by their parents on their 2019 income statements will not qualify for cash assistance. 

The bill, formerly known as the CARES Act mandates that student dependents under 24 years old will not receive the $1,200 stipend available to most Americans. This hit home for many students whose jobs and lives have been displaced as a result of campus closures throughout the nation. 

Now, many of them are facing very bleak situations- paying rent for rooms they no longer occupy, losing their jobs or having hours cut while still paying for school.

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, it is crucial that policymakers acknowledge that the virus is affecting marginalized groups, such as students, at disproportionate rates. 

Students are amongst the lowest wage earners in the country and a study conducted by The Hope Center for College reported that homelessness affects about 14% of college students attending a four-year university. Students who previously utilized on-campus housing have been displaced and left with little to no financial assistance. 

Some might say that it was necessary to simply cut dependents out of the bill- why would we want to pay young adults who are still living at home with their parents? This would be an understandable move, however, the CARES Act deems ‘eligible individuals’ who receive checks must be in accordance with section 151. Section 151 states that individuals who are over 19 can not be claimed as dependents. 

This seems fair enough, and obviously, someone was thinking of the many scenarios in which a dependent over 19 might still be in need of financial assistance during this pandemic. However, if an individual is a student, they can be claimed as dependents until they are 24 years old. 

This is often because parents pay a portion of their child’s tuition, so they may be claimed even if they have their own jobs or live off-campus. 

This bill is yet another example of the disconnect between United States policymakers and the needs of students. Following the coronavirus pandemic, the world economy that existed prior to 2020 will be a distant memory.

With the unemployment rate reaching 22 million during the week of March 15, it will take time to rebuild and restructure the world’s economy. The constant misguidance about the needs of college students must be addressed and repaired in order to give students and recent graduates the financial and economic tools necessary to compete in a changing economy.

 Kirstin Joyce can be reached at [email protected] or @joyce_kirstin on Twitter.