Trudeau announces $ 9 billion in financial support for students; critics say pandemic aid must flow faster
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced $ 9 billion in financial assistance for post-secondary students in response to allegations that too many young people fall through the cracks of existing COVID-19 support programs.
Students will be entitled to $ 1,250 per month from May to August. This amount can go up to $ 1,750 if the student is caring for a dependent or has a disability.
The benefit is also available to students who are employed but earn less than $ 1,000 per month.
“For many students, May normally marks the start of a summer job. But right now it can be very difficult to find something. You may have been looking for weeks without success.” , Trudeau said.
Payments will be made through the Canada Revenue Agency.
Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rolls out new emergency supports for students:
Trudeau also said that students who volunteer during the summer will be paid between $ 1,000 and $ 5,000, depending on the hours they work.
“Your energy and skills can do a lot of good right now,” he said.
A government backgrounder said that funding for volunteer efforts will be available to students “who choose to do national service and serve their communities.”
The Prime Minister’s Office also confirmed that a student can receive more than one benefit if, for example, he claims the $ 1,250 benefit, volunteers, and has a job that earns less than $ 1,000 a month.
The Prime Minister also announced that the federal government is doubling scholarships for eligible students – up to $ 6,000 for full-time students and up to $ 3,600 for part-time students.
Other measures announced for students today include:
- Increase the maximum weekly amount that can be provided through the Canada Student Loans Program in 2020-21 to $ 350 instead of $ 210.
- Over $ 75 million in additional support for Indigenous post-secondary students.
- Another $ 291 million for the federal granting councils to extend federal graduate research grants and postdoctoral fellowships that expire and to supplement existing federal research grants.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CEP) is available to students and anyone else who earned at least $ 5,000 in the past year, but only if they were working and had lost their source of income when COVID-19 has struck.
Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said the government recognizes that the summer will be difficult for students, given their limited employment options. But she said there are many service options available to students and the government is trying to get them to undertake such work through the volunteer grant.
Keeping students ‘busy’
“We hope that students find ways to occupy themselves, to contribute, to improve their skills and not to sit still all summer,” she said.
The new programs are expected to create 116,000 internships and other training opportunities to provide students with an income while they learn skills. Qualtrough said the focus will be on essential services.
Watch: Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough on Summer Work for Students:
“We look at agriculture, we look at food service, we look at the health sector, we look at community opportunities within community service organizations,” she said. “The same types of jobs you might find in a regular summer, but modified to take into account that we don’t have summer festivals, we don’t have recreational summer camps for the children.
“We have been very creative in working with provinces and youth organizations, coming up with ideas, and that is why we are increasing the number of job opportunities.”
The government must pass a law to allow the payment of the new student benefits.
Raquel Dancho, Conservatives spokesperson for diversity, inclusion and youth, said the Conservatives welcome the new support for students, but said it took too long.
“The shortcomings of the CERB for students have been known for nearly a month. Why did this ad take so long? When will this benefit be available to students who need help now? ” she said.
“Canadians have serious questions about the government’s handling of the pandemic and worry about the lack of support for essential services. We need innovative ways to get our students to work safely and to support essential service industries facing labor shortages in our communities.
The Conservatives will “take a close look” at the government’s proposed legislation, Dancho said.
We are glad the government is focusing on student aid, but another complicated system is not what students need
Make CERB universal so that no one is left behind
And so that students – and anyone else who needs help – can get $ 2,000 right away
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh had urged the government to make CERB available to students. Today, he suggested that the new measures will not be enough and will not come quickly enough.
“New Democrats are happy the government is finally focusing on student aid, but another complicated system is not what students need and is coming weeks late. They also cannot continue to wait until mid-May for help. They need help properly. far, “he said in a statement.
“For weeks, we have been asking the government to help everyone directly. With the Canada Emergency Benefit, the government can make the program universal so that no one is left behind.
Students welcome the news
The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (ACAE) and the Quebec Student Union have said the package will bring “significant relief” to students affected by the pandemic.
“Today’s announcement is great news for any student facing financial hardship due to COVID-19,” CASA President Adam Brown said in a statement.
In a letter to Trudeau on April 15, a coalition of student organizations called on the government to extend the CERB to all students and recent graduates, regardless of their employment status and previous income.
“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 students wrote.
“While the government has naturally focused on ensuring that those who have lost their livelihoods in recent weeks have the support they need to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. on the table, students and recent graduates also find themselves in an extremely difficult situation. precarious financial situation. “
The letter said two million students in Canada were already in dire financial straits before the pandemic, and the COVID-19 crisis has caused many students who depend on summer jobs to pay for their tuition, their rent and groceries lost their jobs.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada also announced today that the government is lifting the rule that international students cannot work more than 20 hours per week – provided they are working in an essential service like health care, critical infrastructure or the supply of food or other critical goods.
A ministry statement said thousands of international students were studying in healthcare and emergency services and that this temporary rule change could provide healthcare facilities with additional workers “at a time when they really are. required”.
Watch: Trudeau explains what jobs will be available for students:
Earlier this month, Trudeau announced changes to the Canada summer jobs program aimed at helping young people find work in sectors that are not closed due to the global pandemic. Today, he suggested COVID-19 contact tracing and farming jobs as examples of jobs that could help the country get through the crisis.
The changes include an increase in the wage subsidy – up to 100% – an extension of the end of employment date until February 28, 2021 and the inclusion of part-time jobs.
The government estimates that this program will create up to 70,000 jobs for young people aged 15 to 30.