On March 11, 2021, with president Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan into United States law, the IRS began the somewhat tedious process of sending out a third wave of stimulus checks to the populace. These checks have eventually made their way into the hands of Berkeley High School (BHS) families. The third stimulus, which has been by far the most generous of the federal government stimuli, is often referenced with a value of $1400 for those making under 80 thousand dollars annually, but the actual value of it fluctuates based on marital status, dependants, and other factors like business ownership. These checks were sent out with the intention of helping families struggling from the COVID-19 recession, as well as to stimulate the entire market economy. While their impact on the economy will be measured numerically by future economists, the direct impacts of the checks on individual families is harder to measure.
Moeze Rehman, a junior in Communication Arts and Sciences (CAS), explained how the stimulus check has allowed his family, who has been struggling financially because of the recession, to pay their bills and afford things like electronic devices. “Honestly, I think it’s great because we can get a few extra things like electronics and such with the checks,” said Rehman.
Koceyla Dahmani, a Berkeley International High School (BIHS) junior, said, “It helps pay bills and reduce stress when the income is low.” His family owns the Berkeley crêpe restaurant “La Crêpe À Moi,” which has seen business upended due to COVID regulations. His parents were able to receive grants from the restaurant revitalization fund inside the American Rescue Plan, which has helped keep them financially stable as they wait for business to pick back up again.
Ramon Ramos, a Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) father and professional dancer and choreographer, was hit hard by the economic fallout of the pandemic. He had to put a pause on his career, as the arts were shut down, and was forced to find new employment, being pushed out of his house in the process. The stimulus checks have given him a cushion with which to deal with his loss of employment and helped him transition to his new work in landscaping.
For Claire Renoe, a BHS class of 2020 graduate and current freshman at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), the stimulus money has helped pay for a considerable portion of her college tuition and made her family feel more comfortable. Although her family’s financial situation hadn’t been particularly affected by the recession, the stimulus was still an important financial tool for them. This leads to a greater question over what role governmental stimulus should play in the entire economy of the US going forward.
Many progressives in the country have started pushing for Universal Basic Income programs (UBI) like the one that recently began in Oakland, supplying low-income families with a stimulus check every month as a “basic income.” Renoe stated, “[One off] stimulus checks will only go so far for people in poverty,” believing that a UBI system could be important for those who are really struggling.
Academic Choice (AC) junior Zoe Castelli was more concerned about the kind of governmental spending the stimulus bills, or even a UBI, might bring, believing that the income cut-off for the stimulus bills should have been lower because of the way the spending has contributed to the national debt. Her family received the third stimulus check, but she didn’t think it really made a difference in support or comfort level for them.
How the long term effects of the stimuli will play out for each family can only be told in the future, but at least in the short term, they seem to be making real, material differences for many BHS students and families. With systems like UBI coming into popularity, the community can perhaps expect more of the kind of help they’ve received during the pandemic even after the recession has passed.