COVID-19 Round-Up: New Government Benefit Tops Emergency Relief Options for Students

New Measures Welcome, but Some Students Are Left Feeling Far From Secure

Photo Emanuele Barbier

While there is still plenty of cause for economic anxiety among financially strapped students, new aid promised by the Canadian government will alleviate pressing strains on many, while leaving others scrambling.

Concordia University and the Concordia Student Union continue to offer emergency assistance to students in dire financial need.

News from the Government of Canada

The federal government has finally announced the specifics of emergency aid targeting students and new grads who ordinarily rely on a summer job to make ends meet. The package is worth around $9 billion.

At $1,250, the Canada Emergency Student Benefit falls short of the $2,000 provided by the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit, which targets affected workers. However, with non-essential businesses shuttered, the measure will provide some security to domestic students who may have otherwise turned to a service sector that has ground to a halt.

A press release from the Canadian Federation of Students calls the measure a “step in the right direction” but criticizes its failure to include international students or provide adequate funds.

“Students have the same expenses as everyone else,” said Sofia Descalzi, the organization’s national chairperson, according to the press release. “They still have to pay for rent, groceries, and other living expenses. This is why we have advocated for students to receive the same benefit as other Canadians.”

For those worried about raising money for school this fall, the announcement came with a promise of tuition contributions up to $5,000 for students who volunteer in their community during the pandemic.

The announcement included a smattering of forward-looking measures, such as a boost to the Canada Student Grant for students from low and middle-income families, which will be doubled to a maximum of $6,000. The federal government also plans to broaden eligibility for student loans while increasing maximum loan amounts.

International students are normally limited to 20 hours of work per week, but those with certain kinds of jobs will see this restriction lifted until the end of August.

Help from Concordia and the CSU

Concordia’s Emergency Student Relief Fund recently surpassed $800,000, thanks in part to a $110,000 gift from the Graduate Students’ Association. The fund continues to solicit new donations. The application is available through MyConcordia and is open to all current students residing in Canada who are in urgent financial need.

The CSU is providing emergency aid to undergraduate students through its CSU External Committee Emergency Fund, although money is limited. “It targets Concordia students who are facing extreme financial distress because of COVID-19,” said Isaiah Joyner, external affairs and mobilization coordinator. He added that those who cannot access other means of funding are a high priority.