After weeks of worry about being left out of the CERB, COVID-19 financial relief is finally coming for Canadian post-secondary students.
On Wednesday, Justin Trudeau’s federal government announced a $9-billion financial aid package targeted at supporting students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To all the students watching today let me say this: As you’re building your future, thinking about how to contribute, about starting a family or a career, all of a sudden you’re faced with a massive crisis,” Trudeau said.
“These measures will help you get through this so that you can build that career and the future that you’ve been looking forward to, that we’ve been looking forward to for you.”
In a release Wednesday, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) praised the relief package.
“This kind of comprehensive aid package is key to ensuring that all Canadian students and recent graduates are protected during this pandemic, ready to return to classes and the workplace once physical distancing measures are reduced,” CASA chair Adam Brown said.
It’s the latest piece of financial relief targeting students, following the government’s move to pause student loan repayments and changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program.
Trudeau had been hinting at additional aid for students for weeks, after sharp critiques that many post-secondary students were left out of the Canada Emergency Resource Benefit (CERB).
WATCH: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit doesn’t cover everyone. Story continues below.
But it’s not official yet. Trudeau said his government is working with opposition parties to move the legislation forward and begin the programs.
Here’s what you need to know right now about all the proposed new financial aid that’s going to be available to students. This page will be updated as the government releases more details on the CESB in the coming days.
Who qualifies for the new Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)?
Post-secondary students who are currently in school, are planning to start school in September 2020, or have graduated from school since December 2019 will be eligible for the $1,250/month CESB payment.
If you meet these requirements and are also disabled or a caregiver, you’re eligible for a $1,750 payment.
The benefit will be available from May 1 to the end of August.
There was no indication from Trudeau’s office as to whether or not international students studying in Canada would be eligible for the benefit, or if it would cover Canadian students abroad. Many students have travelled back to their home countries in the wake of the pandemic.
If the CESB follows the template of the CERB and other benefits before it, it will be open to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and those who work here.
How do you apply for the new CESB?
If the legislation is passed, applications will be available online in the coming weeks, and payments will be distributed through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
Wait, I’m a student and I already applied for CERB. Do I have to give it back and get this instead?
According to Trudeau’s announcement Wednesday, no, you don’t have to give your CERB money back.
“Many students are eligible for new programs we’ve brought in over the last few weeks. Many students will get the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. But others won’t,” Trudeau said Wednesday.
WATCH: Trudeau warns against opening the economy too soon. Story continues below.
Trudeau said the new CESB is designed to fill in the gaps of the CERB and other programs for students. Where the CERB is for people who were working and lost work because of COVID-19, the CESB also covers students who weren’t working in the first place.
If you’re receiving the CERB and try to apply for the CESB, it will make you ineligible to receive the CERB in subsequent months, as you have to be receiving less than $1,000 a month to get the CERB.
Why is the base CESB ($1,250) lower than the CERB ($2,000)?
Trudeau didn’t say during Wednesday’s announcement, and that difference will certainly be faced with scrutiny by opposition MPs when the legislation is debated.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called on the Liberals to make the $2,000 CERB universal.
“We’re glad the government is turning its focus to helping students, but another complicated system is not what students need,” he said in a tweet.
NDP MP Peter Julian also questioned why students get “60 per cent” of what everyone else gets.
So expect some spicy debate in the virtual House of Commons on why the student aid is that much lower.
I’m a student on scholarship or grant funding — will my scholarship get extended?
According to Trudeau, the government is also proposing more money for continuing federal grants and scholarships. The government is putting $291 million into scholarships, fellowships and grants, and Trudeau said your funding could be extended three to four months, depending on your specific scholarship.
Specifically the government plans to double Canada Student Grants up to $6,000 for full-time students and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21. This doubling would also apply to the Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents.
The government also plans to raise the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 to $350 from $210 for the Canada Student Loans Program.
Trudeau also said there’s an additional $75 million coming for First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nations students, but didn’t provide any additional details Wednesday.
Is there money for volunteering?
“Volunteering can be a fantastic way to build skills, make contacts or just give back,” Trudeau said.
The government announced the Canada Student Service Grant Wednesday as part of the package, which will give students who “choose to do national service and serve their communities” up to $5,000.
More details on all of these programs will come in the following week as the legislation works its way through Parliament.
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