Who Gets the COVID-19 Stimulus Check – Dependent or Independent Students?

The economic fallout from COVID-19 has been jarring. It jeopardizes the finances of families and businesses across America. Among those the changes hit hardest are college students. Which is where a stimulus check could come in handy. However, the rules are different for independent vs. dependent students.

Here’s what you need to know.

A college student applying for a stimulus check on her phone.

Colleges Blindsided by the Quarantine

Very few schools have the ability for students to continue staying on campus. Unfortunately, not all students have been able to get back home. Students from low-income backgrounds have been especially hard hit as they struggle to find even the most basic resources. At this time, getting some financial assistance from the federal government could act as a much-needed financial buffer.

Addressing the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced the distribution of stimulus checks. These checks are intended to provide temporary relief to eligible taxpayers.

Here’s what you need to know about the stimulus check and how it affects you as a dependent or independent student.

How the Stimulus Bill Affects Students

Under the Coronavirus stimulus bill, or the CARES Act, eligible taxpayers can receive a one-time payment from the IRS. The amount of the stimulus check depends on an individual’s or family’s adjusted gross income, as indicated on their federal tax return.

  • Individuals earning $75,000 or less a year are eligible for a $1,200 check
  • Couples earning $75,000 or less a year are eligible for a $2,400 check if they filed jointly.
  • Dependent children below 17 years of age are eligible to receive $500 each.

The one group that has been excluded from the stimulus bill is dependent children in the 17-24 age group. There is no provision for them to receive any financial relief. Under the terms of the Stimulus Bill, they are not eligible to receive the $500 granted to younger dependents.

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What This Means for You If You’re a Dependent Student

If you qualify as a dependent, you are not eligible to receive the $1,200 stimulus check. You are also not eligible to receive the $500 child bonus as that is only for dependents below 17 years of age. This is even if you living away from your parents and paying for your own expenses.

Students aged 17 to 24 who are claimed as dependents are excluded from the stimulus bill. At the moment, there is no appeal process in place either.

This could have more than just a short-term financial crunch. It could potentially ruin your credit score over the long term, compounding the problem.

What This Means for You If You’re an Independent Student

Though independent students face their own challenges when it comes to college, there’s good news. If you are independent you automatically qualify for a $1,200 stimulus check if you filed a tax return for either 2018 or 2019.

It’s a tricky time, to be sure, but there are resources out there to help you.


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