Many Young Adults Left Out of Stimulus Relief, Then and Now


It has been seven months since the stimulus checks were first deposited into Americans’ bank accounts. Congress insists that the second round of aid is coming, but what will that mean for you? If you are a young adult, likely nothing. Many college-aged adults received nothing during the first round of stimulus checks in April. It is almost certain that young adults will go ignored, again. It is a misconception that all adults making less than $75,000 a year received a $1,200 check for pandemic assistance in April.

College-aged adults (individuals within the 18-24 demographic) who were claimed as dependents on their parents’ taxes, received nothing. Parents can claim their children on their taxes until their children reach age twenty-four, which is why so many young adults were excluded from the stimulus package. I, a part-time waitress, who had just graduated high school, lost income, and was preparing for my move to college received nothing. Not to mention the student loan I had just taken out. Along with many other college students, I thought that the stimulus check would bring support, but was left unsurprised to see that the government had ignored us. However, I was lucky; my family did not lose their jobs as so many others did.

The government perceives individuals eighteen years and older as adults; adults who can go to war and serve time in adult prisons. At age eighteen, men have to register for the draft, whether their parents claimed them on their taxes or not. Citizens have to be willing to help the government advance its ambitions in war, yet the government fails to uphold the same standard when young people need help. Apparently our needs are not adult enough to receive financial help. Thus, with this logic, the government should have given parents with adult dependents an extra $500, as the April stimulus package gave parents an extra $500 per child. 

Yet, the April stimulus package only gave an extra $500 per child to parents with children age sixteen and younger. So, what about seventeen-year olds? Nearly all seventeen-year-old kids are still in high school living with their parents, but the government did not provide financial support for their care. Parents with seventeen-year-old children did not receive an extra $500, despite that they are legally still children with financial needs. Ethan Hill, a student at Highland Community College, explained to me that he did not understand why only individuals under seventeen received aid, given that all dependents are sources of financial stress. He argued that if young adults considered as dependents could not receive the $1,200 stimulus check, their parents or guardians should have received an extra $500.

From the youth’s perspective, this is just another incidence of governmental failure. Politicians do nothing to ameliorate the soaring cost of a college education. They do nothing to stop the climate crisis. They do nothing to address income inequality. When an opening comes where the government could help many young adults, elected “representatives” do not. Julia Giuffre, a student at Highland Community College and an employee at Ichiban, explained to me that she thought it was unfair that so many young adults were excluded. Giuffre explained, “It was unfair because we don’t rely on our parents to buy us everything. Young adults lost jobs too and should be compensated.” Her sister Claire Giuffre similarly stated, “I feel like they don’t understand that some people our age have to pay for school and we don’t just get money handed to us.” Claire Giuffre, also a Highland College student and Ichiban employee, explained how Ichiban was closed for a month and that she could have benefited from some extra support. Telling of their character, however, the women acknowledged how fortunate they still were, by explaining that “[their] parents can afford for [them] not to work, but some families can’t.” It is not uncommon for older teens to financially support their family, which demonstrates another reason why young adults should not have been excluded from the stimulus package for holding a dependent status.

Despite my best research attempts, I failed to discover why young adults were largely excluded from the aid. The most common defense for excluding dependent adults was to save money, but I could not find any sources explaining how much money. So, I did the math myself and will refuse to accept such an excuse. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that there are 30.6 million 18-24 year olds living in the United States. The Census Bureau reports that 55% of that population still lives with their parents, totaling 16,830,000 individuals. One can assume that the majority of the 55% still living with their parents were claimed as dependents. Thus, they were unable to receive the $1,200 stimulus check. By multiplying the cost of one stimulus check by 16,830,000, the likely number of dependent 18-24 year olds in America, you will find that the government saved just over $20 billion dollars by excluding us, or 2.7% of the military budget or <1% of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package. Additionally, NPR reported that the government panned out $500 billion for corporations in the April stimulus package. From the youth’s perspective, it is ever clearer that the government cares more about the corporations than it cares for us. The money was there to help us, and we were ignored. Come the second round of stimulus checks, we likely will be again.

“Farah Tolu-Honary is a graduate of Freeport High School and now studies political science and international relations at Beloit College. Issues most important to her include climate change, income inequality, and foreign affairs.”