Commentary: Stiffed by the Senate stimulus: The surprising group left out of the coronavirus rescue bill
AP

Commentary: Stiffed by the Senate stimulus: The surprising group left out of the coronavirus rescue bill

  • 0
{{featured_button_text}}

The $2 trillion stimulus package passed by the Senate Wednesday night provides enormous loans to airlines and other businesses as well as rebates of $1,200 to most low- and middle-income U.S. adults. But the legislation bars an important group from receiving rebates: elderly and disabled adults who are financially dependent on family members. The result is that the largest aid package in U.S. history - intended to afford relief from the consequences of COVID-19 - gives nothing at all to millions of people in the population segment most vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

Throughout the debate over the bailout bill, senators offered no explanation for this striking omission. The cost of extending rebates to elderly and disabled dependents would have been well less than 1% of the package's total price tag. But even while they allowed up to $50 billion for airlines and a $17 billion set-aside reportedly written for Boeing, senators refused to provide a dime in direct aid to elderly and disabled individuals who rely financially on family members.

There is, to be sure, much to praise in the package. The bill boosts benefits for workers who are on sick leave or have lost their jobs. It offers additional support to hospitals and ensures free COVID-19 tests for Americans who have private health insurance - provided that they find a way to get the test. And it will give rebates of $1,200 for most U.S. adults with income below $75,000 (or double that for most married couples). But another 12 million Americans - including approximately 4 million seniors who are financially reliant on their grown-up children, and other disabled adults who depend for support on relatives - will receive nothing.

Some of these elderly and disabled adults recently relocated from assisted living facilities to family members' homes out of fear of contracting COVID-19. Some will face additional out-of-pocket medical costs if and when they become ill. Many are losing access to a variety of services due to social distancing measures and are becoming increasingly reliant on relatives for care. And for the families in which these individuals live, the presence of an additional dependent means an additional mouth to feed at a time when income streams are drying up.

The provision that excludes elderly and disabled dependents from aid is tucked away on page 146 of the 880-page bill. It stipulates - through a chain of cross-references - that adults will be ineligible for any rebate if they could be considered the "dependent" of another taxpayer. The term "dependent" includes an individual who earns less than $4,300 per year in non-Social Security income and who relies on a relative for more than half of his or her financial support. (An adult who lives with and financially relies upon a non-family member also will qualify as a "dependent" if his or her own non-Social Security income falls below the $4,300 threshold.)

The exclusion of elderly and disabled dependents from the COVID-19 relief package was initially so surprising that it seemed like it might have been a scrivener's error. The relevant language is copied from other parts of the code where the explicit exclusion of dependents is necessary to prevent taxpayers from claiming a double-benefit. But no such rationale applies here; adult dependents aren't eligible for rebates themselves, and their family members can't claim rebates on their behalf. And over the past several days, as the same language reappeared in successive drafts, it became increasingly apparent that the exclusion was not a drafting mistake.

Elderly and disabled individuals aren't the only ones who receive short shrift in the Senate package. For children who are 16 and under, the rebate is reduced from $1,200 to $500. For most 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds, the bill gives zero dollars to the teen and zero dollars to the teen's parents on his or her behalf. The package also excludes some full-time college students between the ages of 19 and 24.

But the total exclusion of elderly and disabled dependents is uniquely objectionable. The bill is titled "the CARES Act" - CARES being an acronym for "Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security" - but senators have shown little care for those who now need our help the most.

___

ABOUT THE WRITER

Daniel Hemel is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Law School.

Visit New York Daily News at www.nydailynews.com

0
0
0
0
1

Catch the latest in Opinion

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

  • Updated

Remember the good ol' days - six months ago - when a Democratic presidential candidate with the adorable catchphrase "I have a plan for that," was surging in the polls? The most endearing part was that her catchphrase wasn't just empty sloganeering. She did have plans. Big ones. Plans underpinned by a righteous moral center. Intellectually, she was heads above the rest of the field. In less ...

President Donald Trump was widely criticized after he said that "I'd love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter." The most important holiday on the Christian calendar, he added later, would be a "beautiful time" to have "packed churches." For some, the president's suggestion about an Easter reopening was a subset of his seeming overeagerness to revive the economy by ...

Suppose Joe Biden is elected president in November, but the Senate stays Republican. Or, suppose he loses, but the Democrats manage to take the Senate anyway. If Americans vote the way they have in recent elections, both those eventualities are unlikely. As the rift between the two parties, and that between their supporters, has grown to Grand Canyon dimensions, Americans have largely ...

  • Updated

Nikki Haley took to Twitter on Thursday to complain about a few items in the $2 trillion stimulus bill that the Senate passed Wednesday and the House passed Friday. She could have objected to the White House's reluctance to spend $1 billion on life-saving ventilators, but that would have put her in President Donald Trump's Twitter crosshairs. She commendably stepped down from the board of ...

Crises understandably spark demands for action. And the bigger and more outside-the-box the action, the better such demands seem to be met. Yet crises also spark panic. Panic, in turn, promotes reckless impulsiveness. Thus times such as these suffer short supplies of sober and careful assessments. So let's all take a deep breath (or two!) and focus on some realities that must be kept in mind ...

  • Updated

Even as the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States keeps rising sharply, President Donald Trump continues to express confidence. He has gone from optimism in the face of the imminent threat of the coronavirus to suggesting that the pandemic will abate soon and the U.S. economy will be "raring to go" by Easter. Trump's optimism stands in sharp contrast to the recommendations ...

"Never let a serious crisis go to waste," Rahm Emanuel advised in the midst of the 2008 financial meltdown. It's advice that China appears to have taken to heart. For as the world grapples with how to control a pandemic that has now spread to 175 nations, infected hundreds of thousands and killed more than 20,000 people, China is asserting itself as the global savior that will lead the world ...

People around the world are bemoaning having to stay mostly at home for some weeks because of COVID-19. After just a day or two - even with the internet, Netflix, books, music, games, FaceTime and endless other ways to entertain themselves and stay connected, not to mention walks in the park and trips to the grocery store - many people reported feeling lonely, bored, restless, or even ...

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alert

Breaking News