Politics

Students can apply for COVID-19 emergency aid beginning Friday

Post-secondary students eligible for COVID-19 emergency aid can apply for the benefit starting Friday. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the date for opening the $9 billion program this morning.

Post-secondary students eligible for $1,250 could receive payments in 3-5 days

The partial shutdown of the economy during the pandemic has created new challenges for post-secondary students needing to find work. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Post-secondary students eligible for COVID-19 emergency aid can apply for the benefit starting Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed the date for opening the $9-billion program this morning during his daily briefing. He advised claimants to sign up for an account on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) website to ensure the process moves as quickly as possible.

Students who saw their job prospects dry up because of the pandemic are eligible for $1,250 a month from May through August. The benefit also is available to students who have jobs but are making less than $1,000 a month.

Students caring for dependents or those with a disability will receive $2,000 a month — the same amount offered by the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), which provides assistance to Canadians who lost their incomes due to the global pandemic.

Watch: Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough on aid for students

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough responds to questions about COVID-19 emergency aid for post-secondary students. 1:44

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said students with direct deposit can expect payments within three to five days.

Students who haven't yet filed a tax return must call CRA to register their social insurance numbers.

Students collecting the emergency financial aid will be required to confirm they're looking for summer work and will be connected with a government job bank to help employers struggling with labour shortages.

Providing incentives to work

During an in-person sitting in the House of Commons today, Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet pressed Trudeau to state what the government is doing to give students incentives to take jobs in sectors facing labour gaps, such as agriculture and fish processing.

Trudeau said the student applicants will be directed to a job bank managed by the government, and expressed confidence that young Canadians will work if they can.

"They don't just want money. They want work experience," he said.

Asked if the government could change the amount of money students can earn while still collecting the benefit, Qualtrough said the program could be adapted quickly through regulation.

"As we head into recovery and as provinces open up their economies, there is regulatory flexibility in both cases — for both the CERB and the student benefit — to monitor the situation and change accordingly as it evolves. But it would be very premature for me to say that's coming any time soon," she said.

Students struggling to pay rent

Kalin McCluskey, executive director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, called the aid "substantial and welcome" and said that students feeling the financial pinch are happy to know money is on the way.

"Groceries and rent cannot wait," she said. "We know students are still struggling and are relieved this much-needed relief is coming."

McCluskey said some gaps still remain, citing the plight of international students who aren't eligible for the benefit.

"We are also concerned about students being able to find employment opportunities that are safe this summer and beyond, as well as the ability of students to return to class in an online environment without adequate technology and broadband internet access," she said.

Other measures that have been announced to help students include:

  • A stipend of between $1,000 and $5,000 for student volunteers, depending on the number of hours they work.
  • A move to double student grants for eligible students — up to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for part-time students.
  • An increase in the maximum weekly amount that can be provided through the Canada student loans program in 2020-2021, to $350 from $210.
  • Another $75 million in additional supports for Indigenous post-secondary students.

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