Canada announces funding to assist post-secondary students during COVID-19 pandemic

The Canadian government will provide $1,250 to eligible students each month from May to August

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Written by: Paige Riding, News Writer

On April 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) action plan to provide approximately $9 billion to domestic post-secondary students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

From the months of May to August, students may apply for the $1,250 monthly benefit. This value increases to $1,750 for students with codependent(s) or a permanent disability. CBC News noted that this benefit, available to those without jobs or those making less than $1,000 a month, will assist young people “falling through the cracks” of already established relief programs like the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). 

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS), along with other student societies across Canada, have been lobbying the federal government for more support for students during the pandemic. In an email to The Peak, VP External Relations Jasdeep Gill elaborated on the Board’s efforts to encourage an inclusive and sufficient benefit program for all students. 

“There have been many Board members involved in the advocacy efforts that have included directly communicating with provincial and federal representatives, media outlets, grassroots organizations, student coalitions and other student unions,” wrote Gill. She added that the SFSS has also worked with federal representatives over email and Zoom to encourage action.

According to Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, the CESB may only be claimed by Canadian students studying in or out of the country. According to the Government of Canada’s  website, international students may apply for the CERB if they stopped working due to the pandemic and did not quit voluntarily. As of now, this is the only aid option available for international students in Canada.

“For lobbying directed at the government, a lot of our focus has been on pushing for the inclusion of international students in the various aid options,” said Gill. 

The SFSS Board has written a letter to BC Premier John Horgan as well as a letter to Trudeau in collaboration with other student organizations, emphasizing the inclusion of all students in its aid options.

“We continue to believe that the only way to ensure that no one is left behind during the COVID-19 pandemic is by making all students and recent graduates eligible for the CERB,” said the letter to Trudeau, sent April 15. The letter also discussed the millions of students, including those over 30 and international students, who may not benefit from  the current changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program, which Trudeau announced earlier in April. 

The SFSS also called for the inclusion of international students for the CESB in the letter to the Premier of BC. The letter, signed by the SFSS, explains how the pandemic impacts international students depending on summer jobs that may have been compromised in the unprecedented situation.

“International students directly contribute to our province’s economy, diversity and prosperity. Now is the time for us to take action and directly contribute to their safety and security in a time of global crisis,” said the letter to Premier Horgan.