After waiting nearly all year for more government aid during the pandemic, a second round of stimulus checks has finally been approved. But, as with the first round of checks, only taxpayers and their dependents under 17 years old qualify to receive the payment. That means that millions of non-working high school- and college-aged dependents will be left out — as well as a significant number of disabled adults and elderly people.
The new set of rules states that full payments will go to individuals who made $75,000 in adjusted gross income, as well as those listed as heads of household with up to $112,500, and it will also go to married couples who, combined, have made less than $150,000. As with the first check, all of this will be calculated using 2019 tax returns, meaning it doesn’t take into account the many people who have lost jobs and taken hits to income this year as a result of the pandemic.
Beyond the people who won’t be receiving the stimulus because they supposedly make too much money, millions of others won’t in a manner that feels discriminatory, since it’s due to circumstances they don’t control. Approximately 2.3 million people — like 17-and-over high school and college students — who are in the lowest income bracket have been rendered ineligible for the stimulus checks because they’re claimed as dependents on someone else’s taxes; however those people will not receive money for these dependents. In addition, approximately 13.5 million disabled adults who are dependents also don’t qualify to receive that aid. But, the caregivers of disabled adult dependents also won’t be receiving stimulus checks, as per the deal reached by politicians. Immigrants without social security numbers won’t receive the money, either, as was the case with the first round of checks.
While some have argued that stimulus checks are not necessarily for those most in dire need of assistance and that unemployment income benefits will help those people, extra pandemic unemployment income stopped over the summer. Furthermore, usual unemployment income amounts are incredibly low to begin with. The average person receives an average of about $378 a week in unemployment benefits, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Labor Department — yet the amount varies from state to state, and it’s still often not enough to actually live well. To make matters worse, though, unemployment income already doesn’t reach many people deeply entrenched in poverty — including disabled people, their caregivers, and people who are more permanently jobless.
It’s especially telling that prominent Democrats like Nancy Pelosi were vocal about denying smaller relief deals and pushing for larger checks, only to eventually accept such a pitiful deal. Pelosi has already gotten her fair share of backlash, as have other members of Congress, but all the memes about how laughable the stimulus check amount is can’t fully dispel the lingering anger.
What’s most notable is the cruelty in how discriminatory the parameters of eligibility are — and how much money was earmarked within it for other unrelated projects — all deemed more important than providing more money to people in America who are desperately in need. During a pandemic that’s been devastating for many, but especially for disabled people — who have both received little assistance and been sidelined in the beginning when people thought only immunocompromised and elderly people would be at risk — the stimulus check situation has only added insult to injury.
However, the biggest injury that politicians must be held accountable for is that while the $600 is laughable, and not everyone who needs the money will even receive that aid, thousands of people have already died while waiting for it. That burden is theirs to carry on their shoulders at the end of the day.
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