The CARES Act seeks to give relief to all Americans, but many are left out. Liam Glen writes on how many students, adult dependents, non-citizens, and others are excluded from receiving aid.
As COVID-19 undermines the economy, Americans are anxious about how it will impact their ability to pay the bills. In response, Congress has passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. It contains many provisions, but the most notable is a $1,200 tax rebate for most American adults.
Many university students such as myself, however, found that there are restrictions. Those who are listed as dependents because they rely on parents or another relative for financial support are not eligible. Instead, parents and caregivers will be given $500 per dependent. But this only applies to children under 17. Barring any changes, adults who rely on family for support will be left out entirely.
And dependent students are not the only group that is excluded from the act. The stimulus package fails to cover many Americans who may suffer as the crisis continues.
Who is Left Out?
Dependents over 16 are perhaps the most notable omission from the CARES Act. Along with students and other young people, it also leaves out many elderly and disabled adults who rely on family members for financial support.
Congress’s inability to cover these groups is inexplicable. There is no reason to grant aid for families supporting children under 17 while doing nothing for older dependents, who require financial assistance just as much as anyone else. It is such a glaring error that many assume it to be little more than an oversight in a hastily-passed bill, something that will be corrected in the near future.
The other major omission, however, is a deliberate ideological choice. Taxpayers will also be barred if they are listed as nonresident aliens or if they filed their taxes using a taxpayer identification number rather than a Social Security number. The latter provision primarily exists to exclude undocumented immigrants.
Supporters of this measure argue that in this time of crisis, the American government’s priority should be on American citizens and legal permanent residents. People residing in the country illegally or on a temporary basis should not be eligible for public aid.
However, these are also people who work and pay taxes in the United States, many of whom are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 and its economic impact. Plus, the traditional intention of a stimulus package is to grant people money which they can then spend on consumption to boost the economy. Citizens and non-citizens should be equally capable of this.
The other major exclusion is that benefits phase out for those with high incomes, specifically individuals making over $75,000 and couples making over $150,000. While there are issues that can arise from this, it is unquestionably the most reasonable restriction. There is little purpose to the government subsidizing people who already have more than enough to fulfill their basic needs.
Looking Towards the Future
The CARES Act was a bipartisan compromise stitched together in a relatively short timeframe. No one would consider it a perfect bill. But it may prove unable to fulfill even its basic intentions.
The one-time $1,200 payment to most adults, along with its various other provisions, will be helpful. But most people – especially those who make low incomes in high-cost-of-living areas, and those who are left out of the package entirely – will need more. The damage will only deepen the longer the pandemic continues.
Luckily, congressional leaders have suggested that the CARES Act is only the beginning. If another stimulus package comes, it is imperative that Congress takes more time to consider all Americans and ensure that no one is left behind in the midst of this crisis.