Students and their parents may find themselves sitting at the mailbox waiting for a check that will never come. The two trillion-dollar Stimulus Package signed by President Trump on March 27 is leaving out a large group of American citizens desperately in need of a spare $1,200: college students.
Individuals who are claimed as dependents to their parents will not be qualified to receive the up to $1,200 payment. According to Turbo Tax’s guidelines, a parent can claim their child as a dependent if the child lives with them and if they financially support the child. This means that many college students living at home or getting financial assistance from their parents will not be receiving a check from the government. Additionally, parents who labelled their children as dependents should receive a $500 check for their dependent children, unless the child is above the age of 17 as most college students are.
This is especially impactful considering that people ages 16 to 24 will be particularly affected by layoffs due to coronavirus, since nearly 50 percent of people in that age group work in service-sector jobs (such as retail jobs or positions in banks), most of which are no longer operating under quarantine, according to Pew Research Center.
Austen Kelley, student, works at a local pizza shop that remains open, and he worries that he could contract the virus from human contact. He is unable to leave his job, however, because of his father’s sudden lack of income.
“I cut pizzas and take orders,” Kelley said. “I am constantly coming into contact with people who are coming in to pick up their orders or the people sitting in the parking lot wanting us to bring out their food…. my dad is no longer able to work, so [the quarantine’s level of impact] might change in the future depending on how much I still have in my savings. It would be nice to get the money [from the stimulus package.] That way, I could still buy groceries and pay bills. My dad is not really able to do that right now since he no longer has a monthly income coming in.”
Other people did not find themselves working what is now labelled an “essential job,” and are now forced to file for unemployment to stay afloat during the pandemic. Over ten million people applied for unemployment in March; nearly 160,000 people in Kansas and Missouri filed new unemployment claims last week alone.
“There are people who are living paycheck to paycheck who are not able to work right now due to the circumstances, so they are sitting at home with no way to pay bills or buy food. It is unfair,” Kelley said.
Kate McNeil, associate professor of Accounting, says the IRS is going to base the governmental donations on 2018 tax returns, unless someone has filed their 2019 tax return already. This means that people must decide whether they should file now or wait until later. For instance, parents with a student who was dependent in 2018 but not in 2019 would find it beneficial to file their 2019 tax forms early in hopes of their student receiving a government check.
“If you filed a 2019 tax return, they are basing it on that. If you haven’t yet filed, they are going to base it on the 2018 return,” McNeil said. “So, there’s also some conversations around, should you hurry up and file a 2019 return if you could change something that was more beneficial in 2019? Or, should you hold off on filing that 2019 return because now we no longer have to file by April 15 because that deadline has been pushed out?”
There is no clear answer on why adults who are still filed as dependents of their parents are left out of the stimulus package. However, there is a possibility the group was looked over.
“I honestly don’t think they thought about it,” McNeil said. “Now, I could be wrong about that…. [but I believe] they were just thinking in general about the population. I honestly think they just didn’t think about it and young people are not as able to be in front of law makers.”
Though these dependents were left out of the Stimulus Package, McNeil urges students to look to JCCC resources or state resources to find help.
“Depending on what their situation is, [students] may be able to file for unemployment,” McNeil said. “Students should definitely use all the resources we have at JCCC and if they aren’t sure where to start, start with the counseling office, financial aid or with their professors. There are so many people on campus that would be happy to help them.”