The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for people all over Canada, especially concerning finances. The Canadian government has taken action within the COVID-19 Economic Response Plan and continues to respond with further initiatives.
Groups like students, for example, were initially thought to have fallen through the cracks financially, as they are in a unique position. During this economic downturn, many students aren’t eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) if they haven’t been working, but many still have expenses. Recent amendments to the government’s response plan have addressed some of those concerns.
Take a closer look at what financial and social assistance is available for students across Canada.
Government Support for Students
Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan outlines these areas of assistance for students:
- Student Loans
- Canada Summer Jobs Program
- Emergency Benefit for Students
- Canada Student Service Grant
- International Students
- Canada Student Grants
Students may qualify for the CERB if they meet the following criteria:
- Live in Canada
- Are at least 15 years of age
- Are without work for 14 consecutive days, or expect to be
- Have stopped working as a result of COVID-19 or are eligible for regular EI or sickness benefits
- Have not voluntarily quit working
- Have had a minimum income of $5,000 in 2019 or the past 12 months before the date of application
- Are currently earning no more than $1,000 from other employment
- Have exhausted regular EI benefits and are unable to find a job because of COVID-19
The CERB provides individuals with a temporary income of $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.
The government is automatically suspending repayment of student and apprenticeship loans until September 30, 2020. The interest on the loans is also suspended until that time.
This measure applies to the federal portion of student loans. Therefore, students must check with their provincial or territorial student loan provider to see what relief is offered and if a portion of the payment is still required.
Canada Summer Jobs Program
Changes to the Canadian Summer Jobs program will create up to 70,000 jobs for youth and will help them develop skills within the not-for-profit, small business, and public sectors.
Emergency Benefit for Students
On April 22, a $9 billion financial aid package was announced for students by the Government of Canada. The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) is meant to make up for lost work and cut hours. A $1,250 monthly payment is now available for post-secondary students and recent graduates from May until August 2020. Students who care for others or have disabilities could qualify for an increased amount of $2,000.
Students and recent graduates can now apply through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
- Online: CRA My Account
- Telephone: 1-800-959-2019 or 1-800-959-2041
Applicants will need to verify their identity with their Social Insurance Number (SIN) and postal code.
Canada Student Service Grant
The government will launch a national service initiative to recognize students’ significant contributions to the COVID-19 efforts through volunteer work in the community. The Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) will provide up to $5,000 to support post-secondary education costs.
Previous restrictions to the number of hours per week international students could work will be removed, provided they are working in an essential service or function.
Canada Student Grants
The government has proposed changes to the Canada Student Loans Program, including doubling Canada Student Grants and allowing more eligibility. That means eligible full-time students could receive up to $6,000, and part-time students could receive up to $3,600 in grants if they continue their studies after the emergency restrictions are lifted.
Support from Schools
Some Canadian post-secondary institutions have announced financial relief for their students who are suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Concordia University, Queen’s University and the University of Victoria have implemented a bursary.
Students who moved out of the residence or student housing early might be eligible for a refund as well. Visit your school’s website or contact your school to determine if any financial assistance is available to you.
Support for Students by Province and Territory
Each province and territory in Canada has devised its own response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The financial and social assistance provided at the provincial and territorial level is in addition to the federal support.
Provinces and Territories:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Newfoundland and Labrador
- Northwest Territories
- Nova Scotia
- Prince Edward Island
Alberta has frozen student loan repayments for six months starting on March 30, 2020, until September 30, 2020. No payments are required, and interest will not accrue.
Effective March 30, 2020, the British Columbia government has frozen all provincial student loan payments for six months. The B.C. Government has also provided support for hydro bills, has suspended evictions of tenants temporarily, frozen rent increases and provided rental supplements.
British Columbia has also announced they are providing a B.C. Emergency Response Benefit for workers. The payment is a one-time $1,000 lump sum and is available to those who cannot work due to COVID-19. To be eligible for this payment, you must file your tax return for the 2019 tax year. If you are receiving CERB, you’re still eligible for this payment.
Manitoba has frozen student loan repayments until September 30, 2020. However, Manitoba Student Aid loan disbursements for tuition and grants will continue.
Individuals who are unable to pay their utility bills will not be charged interest or penalties during this time. Rent increases have been frozen between April 1 and May 31, 2020.
New Brunswick has suspended student loan repayments until September 30, 2020, and is working to continue to provide grants and bursaries.
Newfound and Labrador student loan borrowers will have their payments suspended for six months as of March 30, 2020.
For borrowers with student loans in default and who file an income tax return with the CRA from April 9, 2020, to September 30, 2020, will receive a refund, including GST credits.
The Government of the Northwest Territories has suspended GNWT student loan repayments until September 30, 2020. Post-secondary students currently receiving Student Financial Assistance (FSA) will continue to get payments uninterrupted.
Nova Scotia has suspended student loan payments until September 30, 2020. There is also a worker emergency bridge fund which provides a one-time payment of $1,000 to Nova Scotia residents who are unable to work due to COVID-19. Individuals who are already on income assistance will receive an additional $50 beginning on March 20, 2020.
Nunavut student loan borrowers will have repayments suspended for six months.
Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) repayments will accrue no interest and have been suspended between March 30, 2020, and September 30, 2020.
The Ontario government is providing financial support for individuals, including students who need help paying for food or housing. The main requirement is that you are not receiving compensation from Ontario Works or ODSP. They have also provided support for utility bill payments, changed the rental processes, and ensured that shelters, food banks and other social services remain open.
PEI has announced a list of financial support for students.
- Students who are in school within PEI have a suspension of student loan repayments from March 30 to September 30, 2020.
- Students may be eligible for the Temporary Rental Assistance Benefit, which provides $1,000 over three months to cover rent.
- Students may be eligible for a one-time payment of $750 from the COVID-19 Income Support Fund. This grant is offered to PEI residents who have lost their primary source of income or have expired employment insurance benefits.
- Students may be eligible for a payment of up to $1,000 from the COVID-19 Special Situation Fund. This program is for individuals who are not eligible for any other provincial or federal support programs.
Quebec student debt repayment has been suspended for the next six months as of March 26, 2020. This aid measure includes accounts that have gone into collection.
Quebec has introduced a financial assistance tool to help individuals find the support to which they’re eligible.
Saskatchewan student loan repayments have been suspended between March 30, 2020, and September 30, 2020.
Saskatchewan is providing financial support to individuals who have contracted COVID-19, have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19 or has recently returned from international travel. The program is providing $450 per week, and the maximum is $900 for two weeks.
This article has been updated.