New COVID Bill Excludes 13.5 Million Adult Dependents


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The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Senate has reached a deal on a new coronavirus relief bill. The deal includes a new round of survival payments:

The legislation includes stimulus checks for millions of Americans of up to $600 per person. The size of that benefit would be reduced for people who earned more than $75,000 in 2019 and disappear altogether for those who earned more than $99,000. The stimulus checks would provide $600 per adult and child, meaning a family of four would receive $2,400 up to a certain income.

Adult dependents — adults who are counted as being in the tax unit of some other individual or married couple (typically their parents) — will not be eligible for the payment.

Adult dependents are not expected to qualify for the stimulus payments, people familiar with the negotiations said, despite a push from congressional Democrats.

This exclusion raises an important question: who are these adult dependents?

The Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS) includes the output from a tax model that attempts to identify adult dependents. In 2019, according to the ASEC, there were around 13.5 million adult dependents. The majority (54 percent) of those dependents were students. Around 20 percent were disabled adults. The remaining 26 percent were neither students nor disabled.

Adult dependents are pretty evenly spread across the income distribution.

In total, around 2.3 million individuals in the poorest fifth of society are adult dependents who will be excluded from the $600 of relief.