Oops, Some Folks Got Left Out Of The Stimulus! Don't Worry, They Aren't Airlines
Everyone's looking forward to getting their $1200 coronabux check soon. It's one of the central parts of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill that Donald Trump signed last week, in a display of terrible social distancing. Problem is, not everyone's going to get a check, as the Wall Street Journal explained Saturday. The checks, which will come to a total of $292 billion, will go to most adults with income under $99,000, with an extra $500 per child, including people with little or no income, so that's great. But the plan excludes a significant number of people who are likely to be hit just as hard or harder as the bottom falls out of the economy:
[The] plan excludes anyone who isn't a child and who can be claimed as someone else's dependent. Who is in that group? Some high-school students, college students and some disabled and elderly people, many of whom show up on the tax returns of the people they live with who provide most of their support.
They won't get money directly, and no one will get money for them. In all, that is about 21 million Americans, according to the Tax Policy Center. Immigrants who don't have Social Security numbers also aren't eligible.
Twenty-one million Americans sounds like a heck of a lot of people to us! There's talk of a fourth stimulus bill that would include these folks, among other ongoing needs the previous bills haven't addressed, but Republicans want to wait and see whether this is really an emergency that we should spend money on.
The reason all those people are being left out is simple: It was faster and easier to structure the bill using the existing IRS rules governing child tax credits, which exclude dependents 17 and over (more on how all this works here, at Forbes). Thing is, the rationale for the stimulus is to get money to Americans to help relieve some of the burden the next few months will bring, not to do income tax credits. That's why Democrats successfully pushed to get rid of the original Republican plan to give poorer Americans smaller checks — this is a relief bill, not a tax rebate. The costs of keeping food on your family won't vanish just because they're over 16.
Nonetheless, here's Michael Zona, spokesperson for Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and the Senate Finance Committee, explaining that useless eaters don't get no stimulus:
Dependents, by definition, aren't responsible for a majority of their financial support [...] The goal of the recovery rebates is to provide support for Americans who are responsible for their own financial well-being or that of another during this pandemic.
Dude. If the people these folks are "dependent" upon aren't getting a penny in extra stimulus money, then you just explained why the program needs fixing. Zona went on to explain that using the tax-refund formula was just fine, even if it meant 21 million people would be left out altogether:
Legislation is never perfect and always involves trade-offs [...] That is especially true of emergency legislation in the midst of a crisis. Using existing mechanisms already in place saves time when every moment matters.
Got it. Let them eat These Things Happen.
Oh, yes, it gets worse, too: Under the legislation, it's not clear whether people over the age of 16 could qualify for their own $1200 check by filing a 2019 tax return, either. That could be nixed by the IRS:
But the restriction on payments applies to anyone who can be claimed as a dependent, which could let the IRS enforce that restriction by examining how much support a particular person receives from others.
And needless to say, folks who really won't be able to qualify as financially independent are shit out of luck here. But some with disabilities will keep raking in that generous Social Security Disability income (average $1258), so they'll be doing just great.
This is going to have some very real effects on people, as the Journal reports:
Travis Miller, a teacher in Nashua, Iowa, said he couldn't understand why he would get a payment for his 16-year-old son but not for his 18-year-old daughter.
"It doesn't make or break our household as far as money goes," he said. "To me, it's more of a principle thing. If we are going to give money out to people in general, why are we not giving it out to all people?"
Another parent, Jeff Cunningham, a Philadelphian who has three kids in college between the ages of 18 and 22, said he'll get by without the checks, but it seemed a lot fairer if he at least got the $500 per kid, or better, the full check went to his children, who "could use it" since they're only working part time.
Honestly, we wish the Journal had expanded who it had talked to about the exclusion for dependents, like maybe someone caring for an adult dependent with disabilities. Being left out of the stimulus isn't just going to be a minor "what about me?" inconvenience for them. And it's not like folks with disabilities are likely to face any lower costs during a deadly pandemic.
But why would the Wall Street Journal bother looking at those lucky duckies? They should feel grateful to get anything. Maybe they should hang on to those checks, too, since Donald Trump wants his name and signature on 'em.
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.