P.E.I. announces financial support and jobs for post-secondary students

The P.E.I. government announced a number of supports for students on Tuesday.

'Many of the places that students would have looked for summer employment now face uncertain prospects'

Many students are left with limited summer job prospects and are not eligible for federal income assistance programs like EI or CERB. (Jane Robertson/CBC)

The P.E.I. government announced a number of supports for post-secondary students in a briefing on Tuesday.

Most students are not eligible for any previously announced federal or provincial COVID-19 relief programs since they were not working full time at the onset of the pandemic. And while many students rely on summer employment to fund their year of living and studies, some say the summer job market is looking bleak.

"Our university and college students are at a very critical point in their lives," said Education and Lifelong Learning Minister Brad Trivers.

"Our students are now adapting to new learning environments, while worrying about if and how they can pay their own expenses and stay in their programs."

Trivers announced financial supports for the Island's post-secondary students who may have trouble finding work because of COVID-19. This includes $95,000 to be distributed through the UPEI, Holland College and Collège de l'Île student unions and a $75,000 research fund that came from a request made by the UPEI Student Union.

"We are pleased to see this initial investment into supporting students," said Sweta Daboo, vice-president academic and external with the UPEI Student Union, in a written release.

"This will help some of the students who have been falling through the cracks thus far. We hope further aid is made available in the future as the real impact of COVID-19 is seen."

Trivers said this is in addition to previously announced programs that could benefit post-secondary students, such as deferred loan payments, a temporary rent subsidy, extending the jobs for youth application deadlines and a one-time amount of $750 for eligible students waiting on federal money to come through.

'About 1,000 new jobs'

Minister of Economic Growth, Tourism and Culture Matthew MacKay announced the province would be expanding the Skills PEI post-secondary employment program by supporting an additional 320 positions.

Minister of Education Brad Trivers at a news conference on Tuesday. (Ken Linton/CBC)

MacKay said the expansion will create more summer jobs and focus on providing support for communities, environmental organizations, charities and non-profits and private sector businesses needing labour. He said all jobs created will follow the measures of the Chief Public Health Office.

The province will also be increasing the subsidy for private sector employers from 50 to 75 per cent of the hired students' salaries. 

"Many of the places that students would have looked for summer employment now face uncertain prospects," said Minister of Fisheries and Communities Jamie Fox, adding that tourism is a large driver behind summer jobs in the province. 

"The same goes for summer recreational programs and camps that might employ students. We simply don't know if they'll operate as usual this summer. This will be up to our Chief Public Health Office and to program operators themselves."

Fox announced that his department will support the hiring of 250 students through Team Seafood and will also increase the annual jobs for youth program by an additional 280 placements. 

Students who work in the seafood sector will be eligible for a bursary of $1,000 for high school students and $2,000 for university students.

"The announcements today are creating about 1,000 new jobs for post-secondary students right now," said MacKay.

Learning at home continues

Trivers said members of his department are having discussions with post-secondary institutions to figure out a path forward for graduating high school students.

He said they're also working on getting devices like tablets and laptops into the hands of students, beginning with Grade 12s. The minister said he estimates 150-200 devices will be distributed to Grade 12 students next week.

The department is also working on a collaboration with Eastlink to deliver community television services to students focused on well-being and creativity. Trivers said material will air next week.

A survey for parents will be coming out this week, Trivers said, as the province is looking to hear about the learning needs and expectations they may have. 

Trivers also reminded Islanders that kindergarten registration is going ahead as scheduled. 

Essential workers and child care

Trivers says there are 16 emergency child-care centres operating and seven more preparing to open for the kids of essential workers. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Trivers said the province has been making arrangements for child care for essential workers.

He said as of noon Tuesday, 116 families opted for kids to go to a daycare, while 303 families chose the home-care option.

There are now 16 emergency child-care centres that are operating and another seven preparing to open. 

COVID-19: What you need to know

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Cough.
  • Tiredness.

But more serious symptoms can develop, including difficulty breathing and pneumonia, which can lead to death.

Health Canada has built a self-assessment tool.

What should I do if I feel sick?

Isolate yourself and call 811. Do not visit an emergency room or urgent care centre to get tested. A health professional at 811 will give you advice and instructions.

How can I protect myself?

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Clean regularly touched surfaces regularly.
  • Practise physical distancing.

More detailed information on the outbreak is available on the federal government's website.

More from CBC P.E.I.


Nicola MacLeod is a reporter with CBC in P.E.I.

With files from Malcolm Campbell


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