A month ago, most of us, if not the majority of the world, found out that the lives we had been living for so long were suddenly paused. Activities that we normally look forward to, like college graduations, high school proms, festivals, concerts and more were postponed or canceled. Jobs were lost, school was online, and outside was officially canceled. By now, you know I’m referencing COVID-19, commonly labeled Miss ‘Rona by those on Twitter.
With the loss of so much that is vital to our human existence in society, it was almost a sense of relief when the Trump Administration passed the CARES Act. The news that taxpaying Americans would be getting a stimulus check of $1200 had most people breathing a sigh of relief, albeit a short one. For those with children under 16, an extra $500 would be provided per child. However, as with most things in government, there were restrictions. Those making too much money would see the amount go down. Those who did not pay taxes for the previous two years (2018 and 2019) had to scramble to find paperwork and documents. Those who were immigrants without Social Security cards, and Green card holders, would get nothing at all. And perhaps the most unsettling news of all: those whose parents had filed them as dependents in 2018 or 2019, specifically between the ages of 17-23, would not be getting anything at all.
Collectively, this age group can be classified as high school juniors and seniors, young adults and college students, recent graduates, and those who have just entered the workforce. Most of these young adults have taken lower paying jobs to help make ends meet while searching for jobs in industries they obtained degrees for, but have become increasingly selective and hard to find work in. And for those in high school, the cutoff age of 16 seems to unfairly not take them into account, effectively hurting the parents who could rely on an extra income right now.
As COVID-19 rolled in, colleges were forced to close, students were sent home to their parents homes, and the ones who were unable to, scrambling to find housing options. So, why leave them out? Many pay taxes and hold down steady jobs while in school, but are often considered as “relying on mom and dad.” While this may be true for some, it is not the case for millions of young Americans in the workforce who are now faced with the harsh reality that the stimulus payment will not apply to them at all.
Many critics have mentioned that the qualifications are a form of means-testing, hurting some of the most vulnerable. An estimate from Elaine Maag of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center mentions “there are about 4 million dependents ages 17 and 18 in high school who won’t qualify for the $500 bonus, and about 9 million who are under 24 and full-time students, most of whom won’t receive any money.” Most dependents are categorized as such in order to receive federal student aid, or healthcare from their parents. While many have suddenly found themselves at home and taking classes online, where is the extra money needed to help their parents pay for essential items, such as food and bills?
It’s possible to see how those in this certain situation might be held back in the long run. For some, hiring freezes and a pause in job applications open for recent graduates might cause delays in their careers. Without an income, dependency on parents becomes an idea that many will have to rely on, and might continue for months if things do not start to open up. If there is not another act passed that includes all, how will this age group begin to enter the workforce or find jobs without any money or savings to rely on? This further permeates the generational gap, in which many young adults are seen as “lazy” or taking the easy way out.
The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly shown many in America the ways in which government, classism and skyrocketing gaps between social and age groups have created a divide between people. While there might not be any relief coming anytime soon, its possible that those who become financially independent in 2020 will receive the stimulus check in 2021, if they file their 2020 taxes. While that does not provide any relief currently, hope for the future is all we can look forward to at this time.
Taj Cutting is an interior and experience designer who loves to travel. When not exploring the world, she enjoys writing, kickboxing classes and eating more Mediterranean food than she can manage!