Trudeau announces $9B in aid for students ineligible for CERB

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government is extending its financial aid for postsecondary students.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has announced $9 billion in financial aid for Canada’s postsecondary students amid criticism saying that students have been forgotten by the federal government.

During his daily media conference on April 22, Trudeau introduced a proposal for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit. The benefit is for students and new graduates who are ineligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

The CERB is available to anyone who has made at least $5000 in the last 12 months, and has lost their source of income due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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However, groups like the Don’t Forget Students coalition have said that simply isn’t enough to support Canada’s students.

“Because of skyrocketing tuition fees and the rise of the cost of living, the more than 2 million students in Canada were already in a dire financial situation. The COVID-19 crisis has only exacerbated this,” reads a letter the coalition wrote to Trudeau on April 15. "On top of tuition fees, students also need to pay for rent, groceries and other necessities, for which they usually rely on summer employment.”

Through the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, students can receive $1,250 a month through May to August. Those with a dependent or taking care of someone with a disability can receive $1,750 a month. Payments will be made through the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

The package also includes help with finding summer work through a new Canada Student Service Grant.

The grant will provide up to $5,000 for education in the fall to students who do national or community service.

“For a lot of students, the month of May normally marks the start of a summer job, but right now it might be really tough to find something. You may have been looking for weeks without any success, so we’re going to help,” Trudeau said during the conference.

According to a media release outlining the full package, the federal government will also expand its employment, skills development and youth programming to creating up to 116,000 jobs, placements and training opportunities. Other changes include:

  • Doubling the Canada Student Grants for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21.
  • Doubling the Canada Student Grants for students with permanent disabilities and students with dependents.
  • Broadening eligibility for student financial assistance by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions in 2020-21, in recognition that many students and families will struggle to save for school this year.
  • Enhancing the Canada Student Loans Program by raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350.
  • Increasing existing distinctions-based support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation students pursuing post-secondary education by providing an additional $75.2 million in 2020-21.
NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has been advocating for the government to increase its assistance to students. He responded to the new measures in a tweet, saying that there is still room for improvement.

“We're glad the government is turning its focus to helping students, but another complicated system is not what students need. Make the CERB universal so that no one gets left behind and so that students – and anyone else who needs help – can get $2,000 right away," he said.