Federal stimulus bill does not cover undocumented immigrants or young adults

The CARES Act only qualifies for financially unstable families with family members 16 and under. Families get no compensation for young adults ages 17-18.


California Governor Newsom has announced a $125 million relief fund to financially aid undocumented immigrants struggling amidst the coronavirus. Photo courtesy NBC News.

The CARES Act, a bipartisan $2 trillion stimulus package, offered financial assistance for struggling Americans during the current coronavirus pandemic.

The CARES Act includes multiple forms of economic assistance, but the stimulus checks were a major debate. Under the CARES Act,  adult U.S. citizen single taxpayers who make $75,000 or less based on their 2019 tax returns, Social Security retirement or disability benefits were all eligible and will receive a one time payment of $1,200. Jointly filed married couples whose gross income was below $150,00 received $2,400. Families received an additional $500 for each child 16 or under. 

While the stimulus checks are a great benefit in this time of crisis, it feels that some things were left out or could have been improved for Americans. Several young adults ages 17-24 will not be receiving a stimulus check because their parents or guardians claimed them as dependents on their 2019 tax returns. 

“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.” Janet Holtzblatt, who is a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, told CNBC.

These young adults don’t qualify as “children”, but they are still considered dependents because their parents are helping them with at least half of their finances. 

This is wrong.

Some of these young adults may have several bills to pay and could have been laid off from a job as a result of the novel coronavirus. An early April survey of 2,644 people indicated that 52 percent of people under 45 had lost their job, been put on leave, or had hours cut, according to a survey by Data for Progress.

The stimulus package should have included at least $500 for all dependents, not just those 16 and under. As a 17-year-old, my family is ineligible for a $500 dependent check for me. But one year ago when I was 16 my parents were spending the same amount of money on me and I was just as “dependent” as I am now. 

A child or “dependent” reaching age 17 does not mean they are suddenly making money or costing their parents or guardians less money. For older dependents over the age of 18, just because their parents are helping with their children’s finances does not mean they don’t have costs and bills of their own. 

Elaine Magg of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center told Vox that she estimates there are about 4 million 17- and 18-year-olds in high school who won’t qualify for the stimulus check, and another 9 million students under 24 who won’t qualify. 

“I was working two jobs on a campaign and a delivery job, and both of those have evaporated as this all started,” Collin Clemons, who just graduated from Marshall University,  was quoted saying in a US News article. “I was like, ‘OK, this check will come through and kind of keep me afloat for a month or so,’ so I’m really disappointed to find out that I won’t get it. We’ve been kind of forgotten, underrepresented.”

Maya J. Myers told the Philadelphia Inquirer,  “The government really doesn’t understand the struggles of a college student. Even during this time when we are going through something major, we are forgotten.”

The majority of people ages 17-24 have yet to get a degree from a college or university, meaning they likely have a low paying job or perhaps no job at all. These young adults are being forgotten during a time of crisis when they could be considered very vulnerable in the current economic disaster. 

Undocumented immigrants also are excluded from the CARES Act, even though they often pay federal and state taxes. In 2016 undocumented immigrants paid $1.9 billion in state and local taxes in California alone, according to New American Economy, which documents immigrants’ impact on the US economy. Even though they are not citizens, several are doing their part of giving back to the government and contributing to our economy and society. 

Many undocumented immigrants could have been laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some also could be considered essential workers, putting them at a higher risk of contracting the virus while possibly having no financial help with medical bills or health insurance. The federal government should offer some form of aid during the current economic crisis to the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America. 

“Leaving the most vulnerable, including the undocumented, out of coronavirus relief bills is a cruel turn for workers who pay taxes, yet are being hung out to dry during this pandemic,” California Congresswoman Linda Sánchez told The Hill, a US political website. “They, like everyone, need and deserve access to free testing and treatment. Many of them are working on the frontlines of this crisis in essential jobs.”

On the state level,  California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a $125 million relief fund in mid-April to help undocumented immigrants in California who have been impacted financially by the coronavirus pandemic. The relief fund payments will be distributed by a network of nonprofits related to helping immigrants rather than the state government directly distributing. Recipients will receive a one time payment of $500 or $1,000 per household. 

California’s relief fund was first in the country to help undocumented immigrants. 

Undocumented immigrants in California pay more than $2 billion a year in state taxes and make up 10 percent of California’s workforce, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. California has about 2 million undocumented people living in the state, according to California Latino Legislative Caucus. 

“We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportations that are still addressing essential needs of tens of millions of Californians,” Newsom said in one of his daily coronavirus briefings.

Newsom recognizes the impact undocumented immigrants have in California. I hope the federal government will recognize undocumented immigrant’s contributions and include them and young adults in upcoming relief bills.

Both were sadly ignored in the CARES Act.