College students accounted for in latest COVID-19 relief package

Eligible households could qualify for an additional $1,400 per dependent, which includes students under the age of 24.


Hannah Kinson

UI sophomore Caitlin Bradley poses for a portrait on Sunday, March 7, 2021 at the Adler Journalism Building.

Natalie Dunlap, Politics Reporter

College students claimed as dependents will be included in the next round of stimulus checks, once President Joe Biden signs the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

In the COVID-19 relief bill passed by the U.S. Senate over the weekend, taxpayers are eligible to receive the largest stimulus check of the pandemic yet — and, this time, a wider group of dependents will qualify for additional payments. The House is expected to finalize a vote on Tuesday.

Under the current proposal, a single taxpayer would be eligible for up to $1,400, and for couples filing joint returns, they would be eligible for up to $2,800. The households would then be eligible for an additional $1,400 for each dependent. In this bill, dependents now include 17-year-old children and adult dependents, which can include elderly relatives, disabled individuals, children younger than 19, and students younger than 24.

This means households with college students who are claimed as dependents will be eligible for additional money in their stimulus check.

The CARES Act authorized sending $1,200 checks in March 2020, and the IRS issued another round of stimulus checks, this time in the amount of $600, in December 2020. Households could qualify for more money if they were supporting children under the age of 17.

“I’m really pleased that we were finally able to update the definition of dependents for the direct payments included in the American Rescue Plan,” said Rep. Cindy Axne, D-Iowa, in a statement to The Daily Iowan. “Families that are still financially supporting their children over the age of 16, including adult dependents who may rely on their parent’s care because of a disability, are no less deserving of the support that we’ve included in this bill and I’m glad that we’re expanding the definition of dependent to fix this for this round of payments.”

While many Iowa students are studying remotely in their parents’ home, Axne said, including them as dependents in the bill accurately reflects how many students are living.

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Sarah Frank, a lecturer of economics in the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, said these stimulus checks have a dual purpose of helping families who are struggling while also injecting more money into the economy.

“When a family gets a stimulus check, especially the lower the income of an individual, the more likely they are to turn around and spend it. And so, not only does that family benefit from being able to buy food or clothes or rent, but when that money has been spent, there’s what we call a multiplier effect,” Frank said. “So, if people are more likely to go out and buy clothes, clothing stores make money and pay their employees and it sort of multiplies through the economy.”

Though their parents would be the ones directly receiving the checks, several students said they could make use of the stimulus money if the bill passes out of the Senate.

Jack Groepper, a sophomore at Iowa State University, started working in a dining hall in January of 2020. After students were sent home last spring, he received a one-time payment from ISU of $215, which Groepper said would have taken him two to three weeks to make given his hours.

He said he would use stimulus money to pay off debt and housing costs.

“I would consider myself more of a progressive, so I’ve been in favor of expanded … benefits, expanding the stimulus checks to $2,000 and making sure that everyone gets those, including dependents,” Groepper said.

Groepper said, overall, the federal government hasn’t been productive or consistent enough with financial assistance.

Caitlin Bradley, a second-year pre-business student at the UI, said her parents have kept their jobs during the pandemic, but it was hard for her to find employment when she moved out of their house in August and into an apartment. She started working at Orscheln Farm and Home in November.

Bradley said she is fortunate her parents are helping support her through school, and if she had access to a stimulus check, she would spend some of it on basic items and allow her parents to spend the rest.

“It would probably go toward basic things that I have had a hard time paying for, like car payments textbooks, groceries and gas and all that kind of stuff,” Bradley said.

The U.S. House plans to approve the bill on Tuesday, and then it will go to President Biden for his signature.