Our View: College students need to be included in stimulus package

After taking office, President Joe Biden wasted no time on moving forward with a new stimulus aid bill. The increased stimulus package is an appealing part of Biden’s agenda. This would give eligible Americans an additional $1,400, bringing the total dollar amount of relief provided up to $2,000. 

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans received a stimulus package known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) act. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, this act provided funds to Americans with an income of $99,000 or less. Adults received $1,200 each and dependents under 17 were given $600 each, for up to three dependents. Dependents over 17 were not included in the initial funds; however, college students could receive money via their institution based on their estimated family contribution from the FAFSA or PELL grant eligibility. 

According to the May 2020 CARES act report from Berry, 60% of students received funds from the emergency aid allocation, and students received anywhere from $250 to $1300. Students with the greatest need received the funds as determined by their EFC, student work income, and level of student debt. The average amount received was $725. 

Students were grateful for these emergency aid grants; however, these checks were received in May 2020. Students need more funds, and while Berry students are lucky to be able to work on-campus, the work hours limit can prevent some from being able to make enough income to cover their personal expenses. 

During the summer, students were unable to resume their usual summer plans of internships, study abroad and seasonal jobs. Like many Americans, college students had to face unemployment during the summer months due to closing businesses and a declining economy. There simply was not enough money to go around. 

In Dec. 2020, Congress approved former president Donald Trump’s CARES 2 act that provided an additional $600 per eligible American. Like the first stimulus aid in March 2020, Trump’s December stimulus package did not provide a stimulus check to dependents over the age of 17. It extended unemployment benefits and provided aid to many sectors in need, but again college students were left waiting. Now, Biden has a plan in Congress that would make dependents over the age of 17 recipients of stimulus aid.

College students are desperately waiting for Congress to pass the bill. The relief provided would decrease the pressure on college students and their parents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, college expenses have remained the same. We are still expected to buy school supplies, textbooks and our own personal items and groceries alongside tuition and housing. In a depleted economy, it has only become more difficult to meet these demands. 

Berry also has its own twists due to the LifeWorks program changes. With different hourly limits and a strict enforcement on these limits, students can no longer work slightly more hours each week to get additional money. This can force students to look for employment off-campus which usually would pose no risk, but with the current number of COVID-19 cases in Floyd County and the surrounding area, off-campus work can appear more dangerous than it may seem. With additional stimulus funds, students can keep themselves safer and more protected from COVID-19. 

Relieving the pressure on college students has never been more important. We are making our way through another semester that will be just as stressful as the last with very little academic breaks and the same course load. Mental health is decreasing, and having to worry about how to cover personal expenses while also considering the impact of COVID-19 creates a nearly unbearable load. 

We are in the hands of the government, and we have to trust that they will make the right decision for all Americans regardless of political or socioeconomic status. Our elected leaders were put there by us and now political leaders must serve the voters that entrusted these leaders with their livelihoods. 

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