It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the economy hard. Workplaces are closing — some temporarily, some for good — and many have to lay off employees to reconcile their lost revenue.
The pandemic has also left many students in a drastically different financial situation, which can be especially trying for young people who are just starting to learn how to manage their own money.
To help families in financial distress, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. While most people have already received their stimulus checks, many students are still wondering how this bill will support them. YR Media’s Lucy Barnum looked through its specifics.
Schools that accept money under the CARES Act are required to use at least half of the funds allocated to them under the CARES act for emergency student aid grants. This means you won’t be required to pay them back, even when campuses re-open. However, many schools are also providing additional emergency financial aid for families affected by the pandemic, which can come in the form of a grant, loan or both. Many schools detail their individual processes on their own financial aid page or portal — you can also reapply through FAFSA here.
Worried about paying off your existing student loans? The federal government has relaxed payment requirements for federal loans. Monthly payments won’t be required and some loans will have a zero percent interest rate through at least September 30. If you’re concerned about losing income from your work-study job, don’t panic. Many schools are continuing to pay student workers who’ve lost their jobs; others may require you to do online work instead. Check on your school’s financial aid resource page to learn specifics about your college’s work-study program.
As you probably know, most colleges have forced students to leave their dorm rooms — and many aren’t refunding housing payments. But, if they haven’t already, your school can’t force you to leave. If you don’t have another option or need more time to move out of your dorm, fill out your college’s individual housing form in order to stay on campus. You should be able to find this on the housing page of their website or through a student portal.
Do you live off-campus and are you having trouble paying the rent? The federal CARES Act includes a ban on evictions and penalty fees for rent payment from March 27 until July 25. If Congress thinks it’s needed, the July 25 date may be extended. Some states are also ensuring leniency from various banks and other financial institutions, including no change to credit scores due to COVID relief, grace periods for mortgage payments and a stop to new foreclosures for a period of time. Check your state housing authority or COVID-19 emergency websites to see details about what your bank or landlords can and cannot do during the pandemic.
Do I qualify for a stimulus check if I’m a college student?
One of the most well-known benefits of the CARES Act is the $1,200 stimulus check, intended to provide economic relief for people struggling in the new economy. Unfortunately, many people under 24 don’t qualify. You can’t be registered as a dependent on your parents’ or guardians’ 2018-2019 tax returns. (Check with your parents if you’re unsure whether or not they claim you on their taxes.)
If you’re worried about health insurance, there are several ways you can get coverage as a college student. You are legally allowed to remain covered under your parents’ insurance plan until age 26, even if you don’t live with them or are not financially dependent on them. Many schools also offer their own coverage plan — visit the student health page on your college’s website to find out how to enroll in medical insurance or use this link to compare your school’s plan versus your parents’.
If neither of those options work for you, you and your family can apply for Medicaid, a public insurance program for low-income families and individuals. Eligibility for Medicaid is similar to what it has always been: according to your Modified Adjusted Gross Income, you must qualify as a low-income parent, pregnant person, child, or (in most states) adult, and you must be either a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Many states also offer a Medicaid plan for people with disabilities who don’t meet the financial eligibility requirements.
At this point, you still have to be earning income to qualify for Medicaid based on a disability. And a COVID-19 diagnosis by itself doesn’t count as a disability, but Medicaid does cover coronavirus testing.
To enroll in Medicaid, visit healthcare.gov or your state’s individual Medicaid page.