If you are a college student, you are most likely not going to get any economic relief from the federal government amid the pandemic.
In an effort to mitigate economic pain from the COVID-19 pandemic, the president recently signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that promised $1,200 to U.S. adults for themselves and $500 for each child they have. Few people have noticed, though, that the stimulus bill has a gap in the relief that will leave out most high school seniors, adults with disabilities and college students.
Who is eligible for help?
To be eligible for the $1,200 stimulus payment, you must have a social security number, file for taxes as an independent and make less than $75,000 a year or $150,000 a year if you file jointly.
For parents to be eligible for the $500 stimulus payment, their child must be under the age of 17.
Who is not eligible for help?
Anyone over the age of 16 who files for taxes as a dependent.
What does this mean for college students?
Some college students file their taxes as independents. If you fall under this category, you will receive the $1,200 from the stimulus package.
Most college students, however, are likely filed as dependents. This means that your parent or guardian claimed to have provided more than half of your financial support during the year they filed. If you fall into this category, you will not receive the $1,200 payment, and your parents or guardians will not receive the $500 stimulus payment.
Why is this a problem?
It is almost as if the government sees college students as neither children nor adults, so we do not get help — and neither do our parents. Some people will see this gap and simply say, “Well, you should have filed as an independent.” But the truth is that students often have complicated relationships with their family and money that are not reflected on paper.
Remember, the stimulus package was not intended for wealthy Americans. If a guardian makes less than $75,000 per year, then the dependent adult also needs financial relief.
As of 2018, roughly 70% of U.S. full-time college students had a job. Many of us rely on those jobs to pay rent and utility bills and now are not allowed to work.
During this crisis, bills will continue to mount for all Americans, college students included. Shouldn’t we be included in this tax-payer funded relief?
Of course, some students rely mostly or fully on their guardians for financial support. Those students still need help. It is likely that one or both of the student’s guardians have lost income because of the pandemic, and now those families have two sets of bills to pay but are only getting help for one.
What happens now?
Congress is likely to pass another stimulus package, so now is a good time to let our representatives know that we want all Americans –– including adults who file as dependents –– to receive help.
Go to Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, Senator Roger Wicker and Representative Trent Kelly’s websites to contact them. There, you will find a phone number, a mailing address and an email address. Any of those options should be effective.
Keep in mind that the most recent stimulus package is over 800 pages and was written in days –– understandably so. It was likely not out of malice that dependent adults were left out of this package, so there’s no need to be hostile towards our congresspeople. Just let them know we want to be included in further legislation.
If you are not sure what to say, here is a template you can follow:
“Hello, my name is _______. I’m a constituent from Mississippi, and my zip code is ___ . I am reaching out to voice my concern about the most recent stimulus package. Dependent adults will not receive a stimulus check. Children under 17 will get $500, while independent adults will get $1,200. There is a gap in the legislation that leaves out many college students. I want to ask that in future legislation, you ensure that all adults –– regardless if they file their taxes as a dependent or independent –– get financial help. Thank you for your hard work!”
Ainsley Ash and Wesley Craft are public policy leadership students from Mississippi.