In the congressional political psyche, direct cash payments to Americans were unthinkable only a month ago. But at the end of March, the House passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, the CARES Act, that included language to make it a reality: $1,200 per adult. $500 per child.
But, as it turns out, not every child. The bill doesn’t provide any kind of payments to children over the age of 16 who are still claimed as dependents by their parents. Even if those children file their own taxes, if they are claimed as a dependent by a parent they will receive no stimulus payment, nor will their parents receive one on their behalf. The current language also excludes rebates for dependents with disabilities of any age.
That gap in the stimulus caught the attention of Rep. Angie Craig, Democrat of Minnesota’s Second District, and Democratic Sen. Tina Smith who have introduced the All Dependents Count Act, a bill that would expand the qualifying age of a dependent under the CARES Act to 19, 24 if you are a dependent and a student, and beyond 24 for individuals with disabilities.
Aiming for next stimulus package
Craig first noticed a problem when her 21-year-old son called her. “He was online checking to see what level of rebate his girlfriend’s parents would be able to get,” Craig said in a phone call with reporters. “And he called me and he asked, ‘Is this on purpose? What happened here?’”
On March 30th, Craig sent a letter to Rep. Richard Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, asking him to work with Republicans to broaden the definition of a qualifying child under the CARES Act.
“I have already heard from a number of college students who are surprised that neither they nor their parents will receive any benefit from our rescue plan,” Craig says in the letter. “Many of these students are now back home due to shuttered colleges around the country. The definition used in the Senate bill is too narrow and will deprive them of the rebate families were expecting to receive to help pay their bills and support their families.”
Craig wants the bill to be included in the next coronavirus stimulus package, due to be considered when Congress reconvenes in late April.
Craig’s bill is cosponsored by Rep. Ilhan Omar, Democrat of Minnesota’s Fifth District. In her own letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS commissioner Charles Rettig, Omar asked whether the interpretation of the law that prevents adult dependents from receiving stimulus payments was correct, and if so, that the officials take immediate action to address the gap.
“If the statutory interpretation of complete ineligibility is confirmed to be the case, we hope you will expand eligibility in future negotiations,” she wrote. “In the meantime to clear up any more confusion, will there be a process for an individual who was an adult-dependent in 2018 or 2019 but is not an adult-dependent in 2020 to receive their $1,200 as an advanced payment?”
Beyond Omar, the bill has wide support among the Democratic caucus: the bill has 128 total cosponsors, including all Democrats in the Minnesota delegation, and four Republicans (none from Minnesota, though). In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by a number of prominent Democrats, including Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kamala Harris of California.
“As Minnesotans face an unprecedented health and economic crisis due to coronavirus, I’m committed to helping folks get assistance from the most recent bipartisan stimulus package,” Smith said in a statement.
“It’s deeply unfair to Minnesota families that no credit is available for dependents 17 and older, including older children with disabilities and college students. My legislative fix will right this wrong and — more importantly — offer some additional relief to families.”