UA students who are not eligible for a government stimulus check aimed at helping U.S. citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic are scrambling to put together backup plans after losing their jobs.
President Trump signed a bill enacting the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act March 27 as part of an economic relief bill that will allocate $2.2 trillion in support to Americans affected by the pandemic. The bill will provide aid for a number of groups including small businesses, individuals, the public health industry and large corporations.
Those who make up to $75,000 per year are eligible for a one-time stimulus check of up to $1,200, based on each person’s 2018 or 2019 tax returns. Those making up to $99,000 per year are eligible for a reduced check. Those who file as a “head of household” can receive the full check if they have an adjusted gross income up to $112,500 per year.
“It would send direct checks to millions of American households to offset the economic impact of the crisis and allow for a much-needed injection of liquidity into our economy,” said Arkansas Sen. John Boozeman when urging Senate members to vote in favor of the bill on March 24.
The bill passed 96-0 in the Senate and is the third large-scale congressional effort as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have to create a path to economic recovery,” Boozeman said.
For students whose parents filed them as dependents on their tax returns, they will not receive the check. Eligible parents will receive $500 for each dependent under 17, but no one receives aid for dependents that are 18 and older.
Colton Lewis, a senior, was claimed by his parents on their taxes and is now working to balance life during a pandemic after losing his job. Around two weeks ago, Lewis lost his job of almost per year doing marketing for The Row, a Fayetteville apartment complex, he said.
“I only have enough money to get me through the rest of this month, through April, and part of next month,” Lewis said. “That’s not including groceries and stuff, that’s just bills.”
The stimulus check would have gotten him through at least two months of rent and living costs, which are usually around $660 a month, combined, Lewis said.
Lewis is trying to eat cheap to save money, he said.
“I’m skipping meals so I don’t have to pay as much, and stuff will last me longer,” Lewis said.
Lewis covers all of his own bills, including rent, utilities, and groceries, he said.
Changing plans and learning to adapt has been a struggle for Allison “Fredi” Hayes, a sophomore, who had to leave her dorm on campus and is now back at home in Arlington, Texas.
Hayes had planned to work on campus as an orientation mentor during the summer and save money for an apartment, she said.
She had a lot of plans, but she was not prepared for how things turned out, Hayes said.
Hayes thought she would be fine after classes were moved online and she learned she would have to move off-campus, she said. She planned on staying with her boyfriend who lived close to campus and she had a job where she thought she would pick up more hours after classes changed.
Hayes originally thought the CARES Act check would provide her with enough money to save up at least two months’ rent while she saved money from her job and put down money on her own apartment, she said.
Her parents filing her as a dependent changed Hayes’ plans, she said.
“I ended up getting even further stuck into a situation that I wasn’t prepared for financially, emotionally,” Hayes said. “I feel like I’m more frustrated with the whole system. Especially as a person who lived check to check.”
Hayes, who was making around $100 every two weeks working at White River Creamery, knew it was not a lot for a student, but it was enough for her, she said.
Hayes is concerned for small businesses like the one she works for and wishes there were more grants available, she said.
The CARES Act includes the Paycheck Protection Program, a nearly $350 billion small business loan program that was created to help keep small business employees on payroll, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“There’s nowhere to put that anger toward other than toward the act itself,” Hayes said.One of Lewis’ frustrations with the bill is the lack of understanding around it, because people do not read them or look into them, he said.
Another one of Lewis’ frustrations with the bill is the corporate aid it provides for, he said.
Around $500 billion of the fund allocated by the bill is designated as stimulus money for corporations.
“It’s just kind of upsetting that there are corporate bailouts when there are also people who are living in situations in bigger cities (where) the rents are about $1,000-1,200 a month and that’s barely getting them by,” Lewis said.