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How can I receive a stimulus check?

2020 Coronavirus Stimulus Package

In the past several months, many people have endured some type of loss due to COVID-19. A situation that many, particularly college students, have found themselves to be in is unemployment. Fortunately, Congress passed the CARES Act to provide relief to those who faced financial difficulties related to the looming uncertainties from the pandemic in the form of an Economic Impact Payment – more commonly known as the Stimulus Check. This payment is a $1,200 credit for the 2020 tax year that does NOT have to be paid back to the government. However, if you are eligible for it, you can request the payment now rather than when filing tax returns.

Who is eligible for the Economic Impact Payment?

One of the most vulnerable groups of Americans stuck in financial crisis is the college student population. Many must hold on to a job to even afford the cost of obtaining a degree, and with an absence of in-person classes, an overwhelming number of students are experiencing an absence of income as well. Although not all college students who have lost their job can receive a financial stimulus, there are some that may be eligible for a stimulus check. According to the IRS website, you are eligible to receive the full Economic Impact Payment if you meet the following criteria:

  • You must be a US citizen or US resident with a Social Security number
  • You are NOT listed as a dependent on another person’s tax form (parents/grandparents/guardians)
  • You have an adjusted gross income of up to $75,000 (individual tax filers)

Unfortunately, if you are listed as a dependent on someone else’s tax form and over the age of 17, as many college students are, you are not eligible to receive this tax credit. If you are under 17 years old, then your guardian likely already received payment for you. In order to ensure you are eligible, you should consider asking your parent or guardian if you are listed as a dependent or not.

If I’m eligible, how do I get the Economic Impact Payment?

If you have filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 as an independent and are eligible, you should have automatically received a direct deposit or a check with your $1,200 credit. If you believe you are eligible and have not yet received a stimulus payment, you may not typically have a tax obligation due to low income. If you’re eligible and haven’t received your stimulus check, you have until November 21st, 2020 to receive your stimulus check before the end of this year – otherwise, you will have to wait until you file for tax returns in 2021. You can file for this tax credit through the Non-Filers Information tab on the IRS website.

For more information about receiving your stimulus check, go to

Written by Paulina Cylwik, Financial Wellness for College Students Peer Educator, University of Illinois Extension, Fall 2020. Reviewed by Kathy Sweedler, University of Illinois Extension.


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