Young Adults Need and Deserve Special Provisions in the Stimulus Bill | Opinion

Eight months have passed since the last stimulus bill, and additional relief funding is direly needed to mitigate the economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Urban Institute estimates that two additional $1200 checks could keep more than 14 million people out of poverty. Though Congress has proposed several new bills in recent days, including a bipartisan-led $908 billion plan, no resolution has been reached, even with special pandemic unemployment benefits set to expire this month.

Many have discussed the implications of this Congressional gridlock on America's middle and working class, but young adults—including our classmates still in school, peers looking for employment, and friends who are working jobs—have largely been left out of the conversation.

Young adults have less financial stability than older adults. Before the pandemic, one-third of Gen Z adults reported being worried about daily expenses like food and transportation. They're more likely to work lower-income or temporary jobs. They have substantial student loans and less savings – we can attest to this – and COVID-19 has only exacerbated this problem. Gen Z adults or their families were more likely than other non-elderly adults to use all, or most, of their savings during the pandemic.

Freshly-minted college graduates, including some of our friends, also found themselves entering an uncertain job market. COVID-19 has further impacted internships, many of which serve as pathways to full-time employment for college students. Glassdoor estimated in early May that employers cancelled nearly half of all U.S. internships due to COVID-19. As of April, 1 in 4 young adults were unemployed.

Moreover, a large number of young adults, including two of us, were left out of the previous stimulus bill. Under the CARES Act, young adults who were claimed by their parents on their 2018 or 2019 tax filings did not receive a stimulus check. This includes people like Rachel Sherman, a 23-year old recent graduate who was working and lost multiple jobs during the pandemic. But, not only were we considered dependents, preventing us from being eligible for relief funding, our parents also did not receive the additional $500 dependent payment as we were over the age of 16, essentially a double whammy.

The financial repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on young adults extend beyond the present and short-term future. Lost income streams, limited employment prospects, and depleted savings will have downstream, generational impacts. In many ways, the circumstances faced by young adults today mirror those faced by Millennials in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

The lack of federal aid has more than just an economic impact. Without stimulus funding, young adults face severe implications for their health and ability to access needed healthcare, a scary thought in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.

While generally healthier, young adults have by far the highest prevalence of mental health illness, an issue worsened by COVID-19. New research shows that almost half of young adults exhibit depressive symptoms due to the pandemic. As a medical student, one of us recently saw a 17-year-old patient who similarly expressed concerns about increased anxiety since the start of COVID-19. Financial stress often contributes to such mental health illnesses.

Stimulus checks can also prevent young adults from having to choose between seeing their doctor or paying for rent. Young adults frequently cite high costs of care as a barrier to getting healthcare or paying for prescription drugs. For instance, prior to the Affordable Care Act, almost half of young adults had medical debt or difficulty paying medical bills.

The negative consequences of a gridlock on stimulus funding are further compounded by issues with health insurance coverage. With the future of the ACA before the Supreme Court and millions losing their employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic, stimulus checks can help uninsured young adults purchase health insurance or mitigate out-of-pocket costs.

While we aren't policy experts, we know that the next stimulus package must include young adults. The previously proposed HEROES Act is a promising start. It includes young adults as beneficiaries of stimulus checks. Additional policy can go further to ensure that the downstream financial and health effects of the pandemic do not snowball for young adults, including solutions like stabilizing the healthcare exchanges, extending eviction moratoriums, and continuing suspensions on student loan payments.

That's why Congress must prioritize passing new stimulus legislation before the end of the year. Young adults can't afford to wait.

Mathew Alexander is a medical student at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jesper Ke is a medical student at the University of Michigan. Philip Hinkes is a senior at Yale University.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.