Editorial: Students should be paid in the federal stimulus package

After days of debate, Congress passed and President Donald Trump signed into law a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package to address damage done by the coronavirus pandemic. The bill would distribute a one-time payment of $1,200 per person, and an extra $500 for additional dependent children directly to families.

The bill has, for the most part, been considered a bipartisan win amongst both the left and the right. This isn’t to say that everyone is happy with the package, but leaders from both sides of the political aisle in the House of Representatives and Senate pushed for its passage. 

But the bill is far from perfect. It left out a key group of people — college students and anyone above 17 years of age who is claimed as a dependent by another adult. It is a mistake to not include these equally important American adults in the rescue package, who also have bills and other financial obligations they must meet during the pandemic. Students should be receiving the $1,200 payment, regardless of their status. 

It’s true that while many college aged students live away from home, they’re busy studying, and often at least somewhat dependent on their parents. Many parents, if they can afford to do so, assist students in tuition payment, groceries and rent. In fact, surveys show that on average, parents pay more than 60% of student tuition.

But many students take on the burden on their own, and even with parents paying tuition, students usually still have their own financial obligations to worry about. A study conducted in 2018 showed that 36% of college students faced hunger and lack of housing. And all of this data is from before the coronavirus pandemic — before student employees were left without jobs and internships. College students typically cannot file for unemployment, even if they are working full time jobs while studying. While the current pandemic circumstances may allow for this, many students, according to reports, are having difficulty doing so.

This means most students — many of whom were already living paycheck to paycheck — have lost their source of income. But like other adults who are receiving the money from the stimulus package, job loss doesn’t erase the expenses students have to pay. Federal loan payments are suspended until September, but the loans aren’t forgiven and they still have to be paid eventually. While parents may also take on parts of these loans, many students are still responsible for at least paying them in partial. Students also still have to eat, and right now places like the Pitt Pantry have limited resources to distribute. Students employed outside of work studies still have to pay taxes. And though there’s been talk of rent striking in Pittsburgh, nothing substantial has come of this, and therefore, Oaklanders still need to pay rent.

Sen. Mitch McConnell called the coronavirus the most serious threat to Americans’ health in over a century and quite likely the greatest risk to America’s jobs and prosperity that we’ve seen since the Great Depression.” Though we’re students, we still have financial responsibilities — we fall under the category of Americans that he’s talking about.

Students should be treated the same as every other American adult and given the $1,200. Some of us may still be dependent on our parents, but too many of us are used to earning and spending money on our own to survive. Right now, we need help too.