Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Column: U.S. stimulus package doesn't help struggling college students

April 2, 2020
<p>Illustrated by Daena Faustino</p>

Illustrated by Daena Faustino

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When I heard about the $2 trillion stimulus package, I felt a small wave of relief. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am no longer able to work one of my jobs. Receiving more than $1,000 was going to help me, at least a little bit.

But Saturday, I found out that getting help from the government during this pandemic was unfortunately too good to be true for a college student like myself.

I, along with many other students, lost my on-campus job a few weeks ago. Every month during the school year, I try my best to work as much as I can at my two jobs so that I can pay rent and all of the other expenses that coincide with being a college student.

Those expenses can really add up. Apparently, Congress either doesn’t know this, or they don’t care.

Upon reading a New York Times article over the weekend, I discovered that students who are still claimed as a dependent on their parents’ or guardian’s taxes will not be able to receive a $1,200 check from the stimulus package. And parents who have dependents over the age of 16 will not receive the $500 payment detailed in the bill.

First off, $1,200 is really not enough to cover many households' expenses, but that’s another column. 

It didn’t surprise me that college students were somehow excluded from this package. However, I couldn’t help but be confused as to why one of the most financially struggling and vulnerable demographics in the U.S. is not receiving any money during a pandemic that has led to millions losing their jobs and filing for unemployment. 

I’m claimed as a dependent. Many people my age still are. But, like many other college students, I pay for my own rent, my own food and manage my own tuition. Many students can’t rely on their parents to cover these expenses for various reasons, one being that college is incredibly expensive.

I’m heartbroken for so many college students who were already struggling and living paycheck to paycheck before this pandemic hit.

College students all across the U.S. have lost their jobs and still have to magically find a way to pay their rent without any help from the government. It’s unfair that they were not considered at all in this stimulus package. 

College students are in a unique financial position. For instance, students might not be able to file for unemployment if they are full-time students and part-time workers. And losing any source of income can determine whether or not rent or a bill will be paid that month

Some steps have been taken during the COVID-19 pandemic, like halting evictions in Michigan and some other states, but a lot of expenses still exist. There’s currently not a freeze on rent payments, and many students are locked into year-long off-campus leases. They will have to pay for the remainder of their leases, even in these circumstances.

Many MSU students probably had to contemplate whether to go home or stay in East Lansing after classes transitioned online and the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' order was implemented in Michigan. I know I did. I knew that I’d have to pay rent with either decision I made.

CNN described this stimulus package as, "The largest emergency aid package in U.S. history. It represents a massive financial injection into a struggling economy with provisions aimed at helping American workers, small businesses and industries grappling with the economic disruption."

But this package — the largest emergency aid package in the country’s history — still doesn’t help college students struggling during this uncertain time. At all.

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