Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced $9 billion in financial aid for post-secondary students and youth, after taking criticism that too many young people are falling through the cracks under existing COVID-19 support programs.
As part of that package announced Wednesday morning, students will be eligible for $1,250 a month from May through August. That will go up to $1,750 if the student is taking care of someone or has a disability.
Payments will be made through the Canada Revenue Agency.
The Canada emergency response benefit (CERB) is available to students and anyone else who made at least $5,000 in the last year, but only if they had been working and lost their source of income when COVID-19 struck.
In a letter to Trudeau on April 15, a coalition of student organizations called on the government to extend 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’s focus has understandably been on ensuring that those who lost their livelihoods in the last few weeks have the support they need to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table, students and recent graduates also find themselves in an extremely precarious financial situation.”
The letter said two million students in Canada were already in a dire financial situation before the pandemic, and the COVID-19 crisis has meant many students who rely on summer jobs to pay for tuition, rent and groceries have lost employment.
NDP pushed PM to ensure students aren’t ‘forgotten’
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has also been pressing the government to make changes to help students, suggesting that anyone who is unable to work because of COVID-19 should qualify for CERB.
“Many students were hoping to work this summer, but those jobs are simply unavailable. That is why we need to make sure they are not forgotten,” Singh said Monday.
Earlier this month, Trudeau announced changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program aimed at helping young people get work in sectors that aren’t shut down due to the global pandemic.
The changes include a boost to the wage subsidy — up to 100 per cent — an extension of the end date for employment to Feb. 28, 2021, and the inclusion of part-time jobs.
The government estimates that program will create up to 70,000 jobs for youth between 15 and 30 years of age.