Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the House Committee on Financial Services on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 22, 2019. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The bipartisan stimulus package that Congress passed and Donald Trump signed is far from perfect. It was a good start, though somewhat problematic in scope, but it does have a lot of potential to do some real good in the coming weeks and months.
The biggest problem with this bill, though, is the same problem that we see every time the government tries to pass one big bill instead of passing a single idea through one at a time: Namely, one size does not fit all.
There is an entire age group – college students and young adults between 18 and 24 – who won’t qualify for a stimulus check because they could be claimed as dependents, even though they may work enough hours somewhere to have to file their own tax returns. Many of these young adults are students, and because of the time they are spending in college and because they don’t yet have the training to work full-time careers rather than part-time gigs, they are left in the lurch.
In fact, people who can be claimed as a dependent, even if they are not, are not eligible for a payment, Janet Holtzblatt, senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, tells CNBC Make It in an email.
“A taxpayer is allowed to claim a full-time student between the ages of 19 and 24 as a dependent, so the parent will not get $500 for a college student, nor can the college student generally claim $1,200,” says Holtzblatt. The parent will still receive their $1,200 check, if eligible.
They are now either unemployed or have incredibly reduced hours, but are unable to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them in this stimulus package.
Similar problems arise for people who made good money in 2018 and therefore wouldn’t qualify for the stimulus money even though there may have been a big life change over the course of the year or between then and now. Many of these people likewise don’t have the ability to simply “get fired” and claim unemployment benefits because they would lose out on things like health insurance and other benefits they desperately need right now.
Again, this isn’t to say the whole bill is absolute garbage, but it was very clearly written by people who are out of touch with the economic needs of a lot of Americans. You can’t have a single financial policy across the board because financial situations are becoming more and more unique as the economic opportunities in our country diversify. The rise of the gig economy and other major revolutions in technology have fundamentally changed how a lot of Americans can and do work, and this bill doesn’t take a lot of those changes into account.
I would hope that the federal government hears this and does something to try and fix these and other issues. Hopefully, something can be done quickly, because we are running out of time.