Politics

Americans and California residents, including college students, can now expect stimulus checks

Many Americans can now expect a $1,400 check. For some, the aid might not be enough.

Americans who make under $75,000 a year can expect a $1,400 stimulus check, and low-income Californians can expect an additional $600 check after they file their 2020 taxes.

The federal stimulus check was signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package named “American Rescue Plan.”

Individuals with an income less than $75,000, head of households making less than $112,500 and couples filing jointly that make less than $150,000 are all eligible. Additionally, households can receive $1,400 for each dependent. Households with income above this can still receive a partial check.

Additionally, if you live in California and make less than $30,000 per year, you might get a second stimulus check. State legislature approved a $9.6 billion COVID-19 relief package on Feb. 22, which will bring low-income Californians a $600 stimulus check, as well as grants and fee waivers for small businesses. This will include a check of the same amount for undocumented immigrants who file taxes but were not eligible to receive a federal stimulus check.

California, the fifth-largest economy in the world, has millions of people living paycheck to paycheck and a higher unemployment rate than the national average. Although the vaccination process is ongoing and cases and deaths are declining, the social and economic consequences of the pandemic are still present as unemployment rates are higher than last year.

California’s unemployment rate was 9% in December, compared to 3.9% the year before, according to the California Employment Development Department. This rate is above the national unemployment rate of 6.2% as of February, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the Bureau states that number might be much larger.

When the shelter in place order was first placed in March, around 4.1 million Californians received an average of $123 monthly in CalFresh benefits in the food assistance program. By June, the number rose to 4.8 million Californians receiving an average of $166 per month in benefits, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

Narda Zacchino, former Sacramento Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times and Senior Fellow at USC Annenberg, believes that more aid is needed, adding that the “people who are brown, and black and Native people in California are really being hurt the most.”

Giving money directly to people who have lower incomes stimulates the economy because they need it, so they will spend it. On the other hand, if you give that money to someone who does not have an immediate use for it, they might just put it in the bank, defeating its purpose. That’s all according to Lawrence Harris, an expert in economic forecasting and professor of business economics at the USC Marshall School of Business.

“If we’re only seeking to generate more economic activity, then we want to give it to people who have the greatest propensity to spend the money,” Harris said.

Gillian Stothard, a USC junior studying Cinema and Media Studies, spent her last two stimulus checks paying for rent, groceries, and other living expenses. Although the previous stimulus checks have been helpful, she wishes for more aid.

“Especially during this time, it’s been hard to find a steady job. I’ve applied to so many jobs and it just seems like a lot of people are just not hiring right now,” Stothard said. She added that it’s hard to pay for rent while trying to focus on her studies: “Even the next [check] that’s coming up it’s not going to be enough to pay for even one month of rent.”

Elise Dodge, a USC senior also studying Cinema and Media Studies, is in a similar situation. The stimulus checks helped her pay her bills, but it wasn’t enough.

“I wish they were more frequent,” Dodge said, explaining how the stimulus checks she already received were not “consistent enough to make a huge difference,” although the check helped her pay for bills that had piled up. “It helped me to be able to have less anxiety so I could focus on my studies a little bit more,” she said.

Dodge said the upcoming check will go towards living expenses as well. “It’s gone before it even hits my account,” she said.

Robert Scheer, a professor at USC Annenberg, expressed concerns over the disparities the pandemic has caused, and how many people are struggling to meet basic needs while others thrive.

“A lot of people have gotten rich during this pandemic,” he said. “Why not [help] the people who are in danger of losing everything that they have?”

Scheer doesn’t think the extra aid from California is enough.

“Hats off to Gavin Newsom for doing something,” he said, “but I don’t understand why this state, which is the fifth-largest economy in the whole world, can’t do more for its citizens.”

He’s not the only one sharing the sentiment.

“People should not be suffering in California,” Zacchinno said. “California is a wealthy place. It just needs to be that wealth needs to be distributed more generously to people who have no other means.”