Left Behind by the COVID-19 Stimulus

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many Americans are finding themselves suddenly unemployed, whether laid off or furloughed.

In one week, 3.3 million people applied for unemployment in the United States — a number never before seen in the country. The following week, an additional 6.6 million applied for unemployment.

The illustrated solution, social distancing, has closed many “non-essential” businesses. Mass layoffs have come from those businesses closing, and many are now seeking help from the government.

Those in this situation looking to file for unemployment have had difficulty in doing so. The Associated Press has reported long wait times on the phone, citing that many have waited hours to speak to someone. Others filing online have experienced site crashes and other small errors preventing them from filing for unemployment. 

In response, on March 25, the government passed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package aimed at helping those companies, organizations and individuals that need financial help as a result of COVID repercussions.

The bill will send checks of $1,200 to each adult, and if the adult can claim a dependent under the age of 17, they will be granted an additional $500 per dependent. However, a provision in the package shows that if an adult claims a dependent that is over the age of 16, neither the adult nor the dependent get any money from the stimulus.

This provision has inherently left out many college students that support themselves financially. 

Cole Hamilton, a student from the University of Central Oklahoma, said being left out of the package increases the strain on his family.

“My mother is an Oklahoma schoolteacher that gets paid once a month, and I am the only source of income in a house of three,” Hamilton said. “Every penny I make goes to helping bills, food and the random things that always seem to break in our home. That $1200 would have been a huge sigh of relief and could have paid for at least a month’s worth of groceries.”

Many between the ages of 17-23 may be claimed as a dependent on a tax form, but in reality, are pillars of supporting themselves or their families financially.

Some still claimed as dependents are beginning to have families of their own.

A young student from Oklahoma, who wished to remain anonymous, sent in her thoughts in wake of the stimulus package details being released.

“I’m almost 9 months pregnant. My plan was to work up until delivery at my serving job, but they cut everyone’s hours until further notice,” she said. “I haven’t gotten paid [for] all of March. Trying to prepare for a newborn is draining my savings. They have an organization to help the employees, but it’s for full-time workers, so I don’t qualify.”

She said that she was excited to finally have some “peace of mind” about having a baby in the midst of chaos. Now she said the bills are piling up, but she has no way to get money to pay them.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has already said that more stimulus packages will have to be developed to further accommodate social distancing guidelines and other stay-at-home orders. Unemployment numbers are expected to continue to rise through the pandemic, and young Americans are still being left to wonder if they will be included in the next relief fund. 

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