Many college students unable to get financial relief during pandemic


Gabby Dodd, Managing Editor

The IRS has been depositing the first COVID-19 checks this week for people who qualify, with a maximum one-time payment of $1,200 for individuals, and 2,400 for married couples. Determining how much each person will get is calculated using 2019 tax returns, or 2018 if 2019 has not been filed. Because of this methodology, many college students will not receive a check.

When the coronavirus pandemic affected Lake Tahoe residents mid-March, Sierra Nevada University senior Emily Noel lost her babysitting jobs. She says she will not be able to get a stimulus check because her parents still claimed her as dependent on their 2019 taxes even though she mostly supports herself.

According to information from the IRS website, parents will only receive $500 for each child if they are under the age of 17 and claimed as dependents. Since most college-aged students are between 17-23 but still claimed as dependents, parents will not receive the $500 for their child and the child themselves will not receive a check either, creating a large gap.

“I totally feel let down by the government. Which kind of feels weird to say because I know people are constantly let down by the government even when there isn’t a virus disrupting things,” junior Michelle Williams said in an e-mail interview. “I can’t say I’m not surprised by how things are being handled; I am just baffled.”

Some college students who are out of work will take a further hit from the COVID-19 economic collapse because they were cash employees and therefore will not be able to file for unemployment benefits.

“I’m not able to [file for unemployment] because I did mainly just do babysitting so that I could work while I had a full schedule,” Noel said.

Many of the typical college student jobs in Tahoe – babysitting, house-sitting, dog-walking, some snow-removal jobs, some housework jobs, etc. – are not eligible if they are under the table.

Normally, unemployment insurance also doesn’t allow part-time, self-employed, or independent contractors to receive benefits. However, under the government’s new coronavirus bill, these workers are eligible for benefits.

SNU senior Nathan Turley has been out of work for more than a month and is able qualify for both the stimulus check and unemployment, but has yet to see the money come in. He has been living off of his tax return since he was laid off at Incline’s Village Ski Loft.

“Paying rent, bills and groceries and just living life, definitely not the easiest especially being a college student,” Turley said. “I’ve already established myself up here so it would definitely be frustrating moving back [home], away from the life that I created.”

He said he is focusing on staying positive and being careful about how much he spends.

SNU sophomore Laura Ethans is still trying to file for unemployment benefits. She was let go from her job at The Ritz-Carlton a few weeks ago. “It just seems like they’ve got too much on their hands to figure it out,” Ethans said.

Ethans also explains that she has not seen any extensions or exceptions when it comes to rent which is “disappointing.”

Noel’s lease in Tahoe ended April 1, forcing her to move out during a time when travel is not ideal.

“They even talked about closing some state borders in some places, so I just packed up and got my stuff so I could at least stay with my sister while I’m trying to finish up school,” Noel said.

Williams was able to extend her lease a few times until May 31. She explains that her landlord in Sacramento wanted her and her roommates out so they could quarantine in their second home in Tahoe.

“They were also sour with us for staying until May even though it wasn’t our fault and it’s ordered by the state,” Williams said. “The last e-mail I got from my landlord was him telling us we should thank him for his hard work for letting us stay. Interesting times.”

For SNU senior Cole Lyon, his landlord is still planning to raise the price of rent by $200 despite the COVID-19 situation.

“They were willing to delay that increase for a month to help out, so that was pretty cool, but I mean in the end it’s still a pretty big increase for someone that is just graduating and the place they work isn’t even open,” Lyon said.

Many other SNU students are facing problems with rent or leases and/or have been forced to move back in with their parents or other relatives. Millions of American college-age students are facing similar problems.

One of the burdens faced by students graduating this year is paying off student loan debt in a potentially challenging job market.

For now at least, under the CARES Act, federal student loans are under a temporary freeze and interest will not accrue through Sept. 30. However, this is only true for loans directly from the federal government. Loans through private groups or banks do not qualify for automatic relief.

“Had we acted sooner and not downplayed the urgency of the situation, we could have lessened the consequences,” SNU senior Monique Hurdle said in an Instagram message. “Now our generation is gonna have to be right in the face of it and figure out how to navigate our finances with less jobs out there. Frankly, it sucks.”

To learn if you qualify for stimulus funding, or for more information about unemployment insurance, visit the links below. Unemployment is filed in the state of employment.



To learn more about how student loans are affected because of the pandemic, visit:

Do I still need to pay my student loans? What the CARES Act offers for COVID-19 relief