Just hours after his inauguration, President Joe Biden announced his proposal of a $1.9 trillion relief package, coined the American Rescue Plan. This plan would fund a number of issues the president promised to tackle during his administration, including funding for more vaccines and faster distribution, a rise in the national minimum wage and — arguably the most important for many Americans — an additional round of stimulus checks.
President Biden’s original plan called for an expansion in the number of people eligible for relief, proposing $1,400 to all Americans who qualified for the previous $600 check under the Trump administration and including other groups left out of the first two payments, such as adult dependents and households with mixed immigration status.
Millions of college students fall under this previously neglected “adult dependents” category, over the age of 17 and claimed as dependents by their parents. Vox reports that of the 13.5 million adult dependents in the U.S., 54% are students.
Recent negotiations in Congress, however, might actually tighten eligibility rather than expand it. While President Biden has remained firm in the dollar amount of the checks, he has indicated he’s open to eligibility restrictions.
This could mean that, once again, millions of students across the country will see little to no aid from the federal government.
The exclusion of adult dependents from federal aid is, quite frankly, an unfair one. A student being claimed as a dependent by their parents does not inherently mean that parents cover their tuition, rent payments and other expenses. These students are likely facing the same financial troubles that Americans who’ve received stimulus checks are, but are still being denied the aid they need.
College students are also facing many of the same employment crises as Americans receiving aid. With many universities opting for online classes and partial or full campus closures, many students employed by their university face either reduced hours or the loss of a job altogether.
Off-campus employment can be just as limiting with city COVID-19 restrictions like curfews and limited building capacities.
College students who are claimed by their parents as dependents but still pay for their tuition, rent and expenses themselves are undoubtedly struggling financially, yet they are forced to watch from a distance as other Americans receive federal aid.
What about the college students and adult dependents who do receive financial support from those who claim them as such? Shouldn’t those giving the financial support receive federal aid, then?
Take for example, a college student who was forced to stay at home due to campus closure. Parents have to buy more groceries to accommodate their student’s needs and likely pay higher water and electricity bills with them there. If that student was under the age of 17, the parents would receive additional stimulus money. But because a college student is (more than likely) older than 17, the family receives no additional aid — even though that older student is likely resulting in a financial output comparable to that of a younger one.
The nitty-gritty on the third round of stimulus checks is still being finalized, so there’s still hope for college students and other adult dependents. If President Biden and his Democrat supporters in Congress are able to muscle through the original plan — or compromise with objectors in other areas of the plan — adult dependents could finally see the federal aid they’ve been needing for the past year.