COVID-19 relief package: Where is the stimulus, Joe?

By Kate McCormick

On March 11, President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which means many Americans across the country will be receiving their third stimulus check.

The first stimulus, signed in March 2020, afforded individuals up to $1,200 and the second stimulus, passed in December 2020, distributed up to $600 per individual, both depending on adjusted gross incomes and economic variables.

The 2021 relief package under Biden, coming in at $1,400 stimulus checks, induced some confusion after promises for a $2,000 check — until it was revealed that this additional payment is meant to subset the previous $600, bringing the total up to $2,000.

In this third bill, individuals making less than $75,000 annually, married couples making less than $150,000 and heads of households making less than $112,500 in their adjusted gross income are eligible to receive the full stimulus payment. This package does, however, phase out the amount of eligible recipients faster than its predecessors. Individuals making $80,000, married couples making $160,000 and heads of household making $120,000 will not be eligible for the stimulus, despite how many children they may have.

Democrats like Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) expressed disappointment at the lack of a $2,000 payout for the third round of stimulus, but they were able to push for more inclusive support in this third round.

Among multiple improvements, one of the most important differences in this round of stimulus is the support for adult dependents. For each adult dependent over the age of 17, families will receive an additional $1,400. This relief package also includes unemployment support and additional child support.

This additional support for dependents has been approved by many because it gives support to demographics not previously supported in the stimulus — people like college students, elderly relatives and dependent parents.

But while these benefits are great, there is still the issue of those who won’t be receiving them – specifically the homeless population that is eligible for this round of stimuli, but will have to jump through hoops to receive it. Following trends from National Alliance to End Homelessness, over half a million people in the U.S. are living unhoused, putting them at risk to miss out on the stimulus.

Stimulus distribution is based on tax forms and many people living with housing insecurity don’t file taxes because they don’t make a significant amount of income. While non-filers can receive their payment by claiming the stimulus check as a rebate on their 2020 tax return, and anyone without housing making less than $72,000 can file for free through the IRS or utilize assistance programs, filing taxes gets difficult without a home address.

There are ways around this issue, like using shelters or worship places to hold mail, but there’s no doubt that this system has made it incredibly hard to get assistance to people who may need it most. This issue is just another way that the pandemic has highlighted the failings in our country’s systems.

For the average American, it’s safe to say that a $1,400 check isn’t going to be turned down, but it’s still important to recognize that a collective $3,200 from the three stimulus periods, for those that even qualified for all three, is not at all conducive to supporting Americans through an entire year of this pandemic. We just shouldn’t be thanking the government for doing the bare minimum, if that.

For a lot of people, this stimulus money is going to help pay off some odds and ends or short-term bills, but at such a low amount, it’s not going to make any drastic changes in their way of life depending on where they are already sitting financially.

I’ve heard people mentioning just using the money for vacation because it wasn’t enough to put toward anything long-term. This situation obviously gets worse for those who are experiencing unemployment or medical debt, where a payment so low is barely going to make a dent, again recentering the fact that while citizens are all across the board financially, this pandemic has taken an economic toll on many.

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