Beginning this month, Americans will see financial relief checks from the federal government’s $2 trillion stimulus plan flow into their bank accounts to assist them during the COVID-19 outbreak.
But many college students and recent graduates were disappointed to find out they will not receive $1,200 from the government, even if they were affected by the pandemic.
“I was working two jobs on a campaign and a delivery job, and both of those have evaporated as this all started,” said Collin Clemons, a December 2019 graduate of Marshall University with a political science degree. “I was like, ‘OK, this check will come through and kind of keep me afloat for a month or so,’ so I’m really disappointed to find out that I won’t get it. We’ve been kind of forgotten, underrepresented.”
The stimulus bill will provide $1,200 for most adults, with an additional $500 per child — age 16 or under — leaving adults who have been claimed by their parents on their 2018 or 2019 tax filings out of the relief package.
“I live in a house with roommates. I don’t live with my family,” Clemons said. “We’re one of the most disadvantaged populations in the country as far as finances go. College students are already pretty much broke from paying for college. It doesn’t really help that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and not receiving any help from the government whatsoever.”
Many students who are still in the process of completing their degree are being forced to leave campus and move back in with their parents or loved ones to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which also creates a disadvantage to those families, said Rileigh Smirl, a second-year political science and English double major at Marshall.
“I am pretty independent, self-sufficient. I make my own money,” Smirl said. “But I was under that cutoff for getting money from the stimulus package. I am moved back in with my parents, because we weren’t able to be on campus, and I feel like I’m in this in-between area where I’m not young enough to be beneficial to my parents but I’m not old enough to be counted as an independent adult even though I am 95% of the year.”
Smirl works primarily as a podcaster, and ad revenue and fundraisers have suffered because of the virus, she said.
Now, she’s relying on her parents for help, although they’re not receiving any additional relief.
“I’m definitely lucky in the sense that I am mid-college so I’m not entirely out on my own yet, but it still would have been nice for my parents or myself to get that help,” she said. “Even if we didn’t receive money, just some money that our parents could have gotten if they’re still counting us as a dependent would make me feel better.”
Bailey Whanger, a Marshall student graduating in May, said although her parents have also agreed to help her financially during this time as her retail and teaching assistant jobs have fallen through, many people won’t have that luxury.
“I’m fortunate that my parents are able to help me, and I’ve saved money to get me through the next few months,” Whanger said. “But I know it won’t be like that for everyone, especially if this continues.”
A petition circulating on social media to “close the doughnut hole for young adults” was formed by the Students Can’t Wait group, a branch of the West Virginia Can’t Wait movement that supports 93 candidates for office in 2020.
“Under this stimulus package, thousands of West Virginia young adults, many of whom are trying to work their way through college, will be left out. Many of these students are already doing everything they can to juggle employment, health bills and the costs of higher education,” the online petition said. “We, the undersigned, believe the federal coronavirus stimulus package must not discriminate against young adults.”
Clemons said he agreed that something needs to change in order to assist students, recent graduates and those who are just starting out on their own, alike.
“The federal government should really amend that bill that passed or pass a new bill that is targeted toward college students and recent graduates, recently as in, maybe, the last two years,” he said. “Just providing a stimulus check to them as well — it doesn’t have to be the $1,200. Maybe it’s $800, $1,000, just something rather than nothing.”