Stimulus checks cause confusion among college dependents

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Katie Bajaras couldn’t afford her antidepressants at one point of the COVID-19 pandemic. She’s one of many college students deemed ineligible for help from the stimulus checks the government is providing.

The stimulus bill promised financial relief to taxpayers in the U.S., but there is a group of citizens feeling left out of the loop. College students nationwide are calling for change regarding their eligibility for the government check.

Katie Barajas is a Webster student who was deemed ineligible for a stimulus check. Barajas pays almost all of her own bills independently and was not claimed as a dependent. She says the reason behind her ineligibility is a mystery. Barajas is only one of many students that have slipped through the cracks of the stimulus bill.

For Barajas, this money could have helped her recover from a serious financial burden.

“I would actually be able to start paying off my medical debt instead of running from it,” Barajas said.

Beyond her struggle with medical bills, Barajas also mentioned the need for financial assistance in paying for medication she needs to survive.

“I couldn’t even afford one of my antidepressants because insurance doesn’t cover it,” Barajas said.

She says that she feels overlooked by her government. Despite expressing financial need, Barajas may never see that check in the mail.

Webster University professor of economics Allan MacNeill explained the majority of college students are ineligible.

“College students are ineligible if they are claimed as a dependent on their parents’ tax returns,” MacNeill said. “Families also get stimulus money for each dependent child. But they do not get extra money if their dependent child is a college student. College students are excluded twice—they can’t get stimulus money if they are dependents, and their families can’t get money if they are in college.”

Now, Barajas must wait to find out if she is able to claim The Recovery Rebate Credit. This is an option that may benefit students that did not initially receive a stimulus check. The credit is applied to your tax refund after you file.

Graphic by Kenzie Akins.

For some students, the stimulus money was going to help cover the cost of groceries and essentials while living in the dorms. Webster student Kole Phelps lives and works on campus. He says while most of his needs are met by the university, being sent home at random created a troubling financial situation for him.

“If I had gotten the stimulus back in the spring, it would’ve helped me a lot at the time because I had to live at home and was working at Walmart to support myself,” Phelps said.

Phelps recognizes his situation is manageable, but for other students, it may be between paying for rent or food that month.

“I’m privileged in some areas and thankful for it, but I’m upset that the government has looked over college students in general,” Phelps said.

That’s exactly how Barajas has described her experience since the start of the pandemic. She feels neglected by her government. There is no one solution to the financial suffering that has taken a toll on college students, but MacNeill offered his best suggestions.

“Pay attention to the news [from legitimate, reliable sources], stay informed on politics, take economics courses and vote,” MacNeill said.

Webster students should check connections for updates on the Cares Act and what
resources may be available soon.

“Regarding the new CARES ACT money – The university is still awaiting guidelines from the
administration about how the money is to be distributed. Until we receive those guidelines, we will not be able to answer any questions about the grants,” director of public relations, Patrick Giblin said.

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I'm the news editor for The Journal in the spring 2021 semester. I was the lifestyle editor in the fall 2020 semester. I like to write news and lifestyle stories. I work a lot outside of Webster, but enjoy my cats and getting tattoos. I use she/hers pronouns.