Hao Liu is the co-founder and CEO of Boro, a Chicago-based startup that helps college students gain affordable access to credit.
The federal government just passed a historic stimulus bill designed to help the country stay above water during a massive economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The stimulus checks from the IRS, most of which are for $1,200, started hitting Americans’ bank accounts this week.
But what does this momentous piece of legislation mean for Loyola students? Here are some quick takeaways.
Are Loyola students eligible for the $1,200 stimulus funds?
Not if someone, like one of your parents, lists you as a dependent on their tax returns. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was written in a way that excludes anyone listed as a dependent, which applies to most Americans under age 24. And, unfortunately, not even your parents will get the $500 in stimulus funds that the government is sending for each child under age 17 (since, obviously, most college students are 17 or older).
If you’re not listed as a dependent on anyone else’s tax returns, and you filed personal taxes last year or the year before, though — you’re eligible. As long as you made less than $75,000 in the given tax year.
If I’m eligible, how do I get the money?
If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, the government will use the direct deposit bank account information from your most recent tax return to directly deposit the funds into the checking account you noted on that return.
If you didn’t enter direct deposit information for a checking account on your last tax return, or you’ve since closed that bank account, you can provide the IRS with your bank account direct deposit info on the IRS website.
What does the CARES Act say about my student loans?
The CARES Act doesn’t reduce your student debt, but it does give you a break from having to make payments: It says student loan borrowers don’t need to make any payments until Sept. 30. It also says that borrowers won’t accrue any interest during that same time period.
If you can afford to, now could be a good time to start paying down some of the principal on your loans, because they aren’t accruing interest.
It’s important to note that this relief only applies to people who have federal student loans. Although that’s most borrowers — over 90 percent of all the student loans in the country are from federal lenders — if you’re one of the smaller percentage of students who borrowed from a private lender, don’t assume you have any relief coming your way until you’ve talked to your lender directly.
There are some student advocacy groups pushing private lenders to offer relief similar to what government lenders are offering. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators has some good information on that topic here.
What if I was on a federal work-study program?
For students who were enrolled in a federal work-study program at an institution that had to go fully remote, like Loyola did, your employer may continue to keep paying you if the transition to remote learning occurred after the beginning of the term, and if the institution is still paying its other employees (like faculty and staff), and if the institution continues to meet its institutional wage share requirement. See the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid site for more information.
If I lost my on-campus job, can I file for unemployment?
You can file for unemployment if you were working a part-time on-campus job, if you were freelancing or if you had a gig-economy job like Lyft, Postmates or Instacart. The exact amount you’ll receive in unemployment compensation depends on what state you live in. The stimulus package for COVID-19 has expanded unemployment benefits, so we recommend searching for your state’s unemployment eligibility.
Even if you live in another state, and went home to your family in another state besides Illinois, you’ll still file for unemployment benefits in Illinois. The Illinois Department of Employment Security’s website has information about how to go about filing a claim, which you can do online.