Once the COVID-19 crisis hit home, it became clear that its impact would not just be health-related, but financial as well. Millions of Americans lost their jobs in March when lockdown orders were put into place, and so lawmakers knew they'd need to act quickly to provide relief.
Enter the CARES Act, a $2 trillion package that included the now-famous $1,200 stimulus payments millions of Americans have received in the past month or so. But those stimulus payments weren't for everyone. Earners whose income exceeded a certain threshold were excluded from stimulus checks, as were dependents aged 17 or over, which left a lot of college students out in the cold. But a new bill now seeks to provide relief to college students -- low-income ones in particular.
Will college students finally get their share?
There's a new proposal called the Student Recovery Eligibility for Low-Income Individuals to Exact Funds (RELIEF) Act of 2020, and its goal is to put some money -- specifically, $1,200 -- into the hands of college students who were left out of the CARES Act. College students are frequently listed as dependents for tax-reporting purposes, and they're generally 17 or older, which means many young Americans got no money at all under the CARES Act. With the RELIEF Act, students receiving Pell Grants would be in line for some much-needed cash.
Federal Pell Grants are need-based grants given to low-income students. Unlike student loans, they don't have to be repaid.
Under the RELIEF Act, students would actually fare better than they would under the CARES Act, because while the former is calling for $1,200 stimulus checks, the latter only allowed for $500 payments for dependents. Furthermore, the RELIEF Act clearly targets people in need of financial relief -- students whose income rendered them eligible for Pell Grants before the COVID-19 crisis even kicked off.
Will the RELIEF Act pass?
There's been much debate over a second stimulus check ever since it became clear that a single round of relief wouldn't cut it. Though the Democrat-proposed HEROES Act, which calls for $1,200 stimulus payments for eligible adults and dependents, passed a House of Representatives vote, it's currently stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate and is unlikely to go anywhere. Critics of the HEROES Act, which also seeks to extend boosted unemployment benefits, have argued that it's too expensive, and that the level of relief being suggested isn't needed given that stay-at-home orders have eased and more jobs should, at least in theory, be opening up. The RELIEF Act, on the other hand, targets a specific group of people who were excluded from the first round of stimulus payments, so it may very well gain traction due to its limited scope and cost.
Ultimately, Americans are hoping for some amount of extra relief as they grapple with a recession. President Trump had stated that he expects a "generous" second stimulus package to pass, but whether that includes individual stimulus payments like the CARES Act allowed for is yet to be determined.