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Millions of students and adult dependents won’t receive a $600 stimulus payment

Young adults think the current eligibility standards disregard families that need the additional money.

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Most working Americans can expect a second round of stimulus payments via direct deposit, a paper check, or a prepaid debit card to be issued through January 15. The $900 billion spending package passed by Congress will provide much-needed relief for families who’ve gone months without aid: Eligible adults will receive up to $600 each, and each household can receive an additional $600 for every child under the age of 17. The checks will be smaller for households earning between $75,000 and $99,000, and no aid will be extended to those who earn more.

However, the terms and conditions for aid exclude millions of people, some of whom weren’t eligible for the first round of checks either. Elderly or disabled people who are claimed as adult dependents will not receive money; neither will college students or recent graduates who were claimed as dependents on their parents’ 2019 tax returns. (Self-supporting students and individuals who don’t make enough income to file a tax return are able to submit information to the IRS to receive future aid.)

In May, Democrats proposed expanding stimulus requirements to full-time students below the age of 24 and adult dependents through the Heroes Act. The bill was stalled in the Senate for negotiations after it passed the House.

There are about 13.5 million adult dependents in the US: A majority (54 percent) are students and around 20 percent are disabled adults. While they fall within a range of income categories, an analysis by the People’s Policy Project think tank determined that the approximately 2.3 million adult dependents who fall into the lowest income category won’t receive a $600 check.

Tax advisers and the IRS say students and graduates who became financially independent in 2020 could claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on their 2020 tax returns (which are due by April 15, 2021). That means they could qualify for a $1,800 reimbursement of relief money delivered later in 2021. But people still have rent and bills to pay, and stimulus money could ultimately come too late: Young adults are seeking employment in one of the worst job markets since the Great Depression, and the diminished hiring outlook from employers could mean a delay in financial independence for a generation of workers.

“When you create an economy with triple-digit negative growth and double-digit unemployment, it’s much harder for young people to launch careers,” Georgetown economist Nicole Smith told Vox in December.

Many young adults and adult dependents also argue that the existing standards for eligibility unjustly disregard working families who need the additional support. It shouldn’t matter whether a dependent is categorized as a child or an adult, they say. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute, criticized the stimulus decision in March, saying that there is “no clear policy rationale for this choice, which ignores the struggle of many families with dependents who are not minor children.”

In other words, if families are financially responsible for a person, they should qualify to receive more aid. “My brother is 17, but his age doesn’t affect how much money he’s costing my parents, so the age requirement is ridiculous,” a 23-year-old paralegal told Vox last spring.

Under the Biden administration, there is hope that another round of stimulus payments can be passed. The president-elect has called the $600 checks a “down payment,” assuring the public that Congress would deliver more aid in the new year. The results of the Georgia runoffs are promising: Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock have both won their respective Senate races, leading the Democrats to win the Senate by the slimmest margin possible. Crucially, those wins ensure Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) the position of majority leader, so that legislation passed by the House likely won’t be stalled on partisan lines.

For young people, there are more pressing issues they hope the new administration can address, in addition to expanding the scope of stimulus payments. Many are demanding rental relief and an extension on student loan payments.

“A further pause on student loan repayment is also necessary, especially without any financial help (like a stimulus check),” wrote a recent graduate on Twitter. “So many college-aged students and recent graduates can’t even find jobs … We need help too.”

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