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Friday, May 29, 2020

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How the massive coronavirus economic relief bill affects students, faculty and staff


The University is set to receive a slice of the billions being sent to Texas via the federal government's $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package. | File photo

The University is set to receive a slice of the billions being sent to Texas via the federal government’s $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus package. | File photo

Help is on the way for many — including UH students and faculty and staff — across a nation hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic after a massive $2 trillion economic stimulus package was signed into law last Friday.

For UH and other higher education institutions that have been forced to resort to remote learning and effectively shut down their campus to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the bill brings relief.

“The Stimulus Legislation, among other things, offers direct help for students and universities,” President Renu Khator said in an email sent to the UH community Monday. “It also offers funds to governors to help K-12 and postsecondary educational institutions in their respective states.”

Here’s what the largest economic stimulus package in U.S. history means for UH students and faculty and staff:

Financial aid payment suspension

For some students, especially the ones wishing to continue their education despite the financial hit caused by the outbreak, the economic stimulus package can prove beneficial.

Among the many provisions in the $2 trillion bill is a temporary suspension of federally-owned student loan payments and interest.

Also included is the choice to skip Public Service Loan Forgiveness program payments without it counting against you and the suspension of student loan debt collection.

Things will pick back up September 30 when Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin expects an economic bounceback with “very large GDP numbers and very low unemployment back to where we were beforehand.”

Unemployment benefits

Khator urged any student who has lost a job to file for unemployment insurance through the Texas Workforce Commission, which has seen a dramatic spike in jobless claims since the crisis began.

To help curb skyrocketing unemployment in the United States, which, according to the Federal Reserve in St. Louis, could leave over 47 million out of work in the second quarter, many Americans are getting help from the government in the form of a check.

Use this calculator to determine how much you might receive in relief. Here are the guidelines for who qualifies for how much:

  • You will receive $1,200 if you filed your 2018 taxes independently and made $75,000 or less
  • You will receive $2,400 if you filed your 2018 taxes as a married couple and made $150,000 or less
  • You will receive $1,200 if you filed your 2018 taxes as single, head of household, and made $112,000 or less
  • If you have children 16 years or younger, you will receive an additional $500 for each of those children
  • Single persons making up to $99,000 or married persons with a combined income of $198,000 or less will also receive payments, but they will be made on a sliding scale up to these income levels.

But if you didn’t file your taxes independently — like many full-time college students who can be claimed as dependents until 24 — you’re out of luck.

You, and 21 million other Americans who don’t qualify, won’t be getting the relief millions of others will.

‘Assurances’

On top of a check many faculty and staff will get from the federal government, a slice of the tens of billions of dollars coming to Texas will find its way to UH as relief, according to Khator.

The funds, she added, will help pay employees lost wages since the beginning of the outbreak, which has kept the Student Centers closed from March 24 until this Saturday and countless workers affected.

“The bill includes assurances that the state of Texas will maintain support for higher education, which shall include state funding to institutions of higher education and state need-based financial aid,” Khator said.

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For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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