PM Justin Trudeau announces new $9 billion COVID-19 funding for students

Students will be eligible to receive $1,250 a month from May through August

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today a new Canada Emergency Student Benefit – CESB program for students affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The new program will be a part of a $9 billion package of new measures that are aimed at helping and supporting young people in Canada. 

Through the proposed benefit, post-secondary students will receive $1,250 a month from May to August. If the applicant is also taking care of someone else or have a disability, the amount received may increase to $1,750. 

It was said at the press conference that college and university students currently in school, planning to start in September 2020, or who have graduated in December 2019 who have lost work or cannot find work due to the pandemic are eligible for the program. 

Students who are working, earning less than $1,000 per month, can also apply to the program. 

Payments will be made through the Canada Revenue Agency.

Prime Minister Trudeau also said students who volunteer over the summer will be paid between $1,000 and $5,000, depending on the hours they work. This new Canada Student Service Grant program is available for students volunteering in the COVID-19 fight over the summer. 

The Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed that a student can collect multiple benefits if, for example, they apply for the $1,250 benefit, volunteer, and hold a job that pays less than $1,000 a month.

The Prime Minister also announced the federal government is doubling the student grants for the 2020-2021 school year to eligible students – up to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for part-time students

Other measures including new student jobs and additional grants announced today. Specifically, the federal government will also be: 

  • Creating an additional 76,000 jobs for young people in sectors that require help, or that are on the frontlines of the pandemic 
  • Investing more than $291 million to help extend scholarships, fellowships, and supplement federal research grants for three to four months
  • Broadening eligibility for financial assistance through the Canada student loans program and raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350.
  • Providing more than $75 million to specifically increase support for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis Nation Students

The Prime Minister’s announcements today answer the worries of many students across the country who have seen their education and job prospects hampered by the pandemic. While the new benefit program will require additional legislation to be implemented, students can be reassured that support programs are on the way. 

It was confirmed that the new funds will be available for Canadians studying in Canada, as well as students who are completing postsecondary schooling abroad. Non-citizens, such as international students, cannot claim the emergency benefit.

However, international students are going to be allowed to work more than the current maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods. Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also announced today.

The measures announced today, including the Canada Emergency Student Benefit – CESB program, came after students voiced concerns that they are not eligible for the $2,000 per month Canada Emergency Response Benefit – CERB due to the requirement that applicants have to earn at least $5,000 in the past year. 

In a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau on April 5, a coalition of student organizations called on the government to extend CERB to all students and recent graduates.

“Students and recent graduates who are just starting their careers now face the most uncertain job market since the Great Depression. The devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are being felt across the country,“ the student wrote. 

The letter said two million students in Canada were already in a dire financial situation before the pandemic, and the COVID-19 crisis has meant many students who rely on summer jobs to pay for tuition, rent, and groceries have lost employment.

The federal government has also previously announced that temporary changes are coming to the Canada Summer Jobs program. The program is aimed to help students find work in a largely locked down country once their summer begins. 

Through the temporary changes, employers who hire students can apply for a subsidy of up to 100% of the provincial or territorial hourly minimum wage. It has been said that the measure will help create up to 70,000 jobs for young Canadians between 15 and 30 years of age and help them gain work experience and an income during the ongoing pandemic.

In his closing statement to students, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reassured students by saying: 

“To all the students watching today, let me say this: As you’re building your future, thinking about how to contribute, or about starting a family or career, all of a sudden you’re faced with a massive crisis. The uncertainly may feel overwhelming, but in Canada, we look out for each other… These measures will help you get through this, so you can build that career and future you’ve been looking forward to.”.

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