Like countless students across the country, Brandon Amyot’s summer work plans have been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The incoming third-year political science student at Lakehead University in Orillia, Ontario, who typically spends summers working in the nonprofit sector, faces a summer of unemployment and wonders where the money for the money will come from. rent and food as the economy gradually emerges from a mandatory government blockade.
Amyot, who prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns, has exhausted most of the resources she can access and looks forward to leaning on local food pantries to survive.
“Hopefully help will come soon,” says Amyot. “If it starts in late May, you know, I’ll have to see my options. But right now it’s a matter of week to week.”
The economic consequences of the coronavirus have cut dozens of young Canadians from summer jobs and internships, which generally helps them close the gaps between tuition payments. And until April 22, when Ottawa introduced the Canadian Student Emergency Benefit (CESB), existing aid programs exposed students like Amyot, that is, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which requires applicants to have earned at least $ 5,000 in 2020, an impossible threshold for most full-time students.
CESB offers students who are not eligible for CERB $ 1,250 per month (or $ 1,750 per month for those with dependents or disabilities) between May and August. It’s part of a $ 9 billion aid package for postsecondary students and recent graduates that also includes employer salary grants with Canada Summer Jobs, improved and extended research grants, and higher weekly student loan payments.
The sum of a summer’s CESB checks turns out to be more than Amyot would normally earn in a nonprofit job to earn a minimum wage, although applications for CESB won’t open until May 15. Critics say the funds are too late, as nearly two months of unaided lockdown has left students struggling to make ends meet.
“I applied for some work, mainly essential supermarket work and things like that,” says Amyot. “I have received no response; the few I heard from had filled the positions at the time … And I am at the point where I will run out of food in a few days.”
Amyot feels fortunate to qualify for CESB, as large sections of students are not eligible for the program, including international students. Claudia Rupnik, an incoming fourth-year student at Queen’s University and editor of news for the Queen’s Journal, says the international students at the school “feel as if they have been forgotten.” Travel restrictions related to the coronavirus have prevented many from returning home during the summer, making a large portion of the students trapped in Canada with no money to live.
Rupnik also notes that while the CESB offers enough to cover basic needs, it is much lower than what most students say they would earn through a paid internship. Some of his peers, including those planning to apply for the CESB, are now re-evaluating how they will pay for school in the fall.
Meanwhile, Queen’s University has released $ 2 million in scholarship funds for students struggling to pay their immediate bills, with a fraction dedicated specifically to international graduate students.
Other schools and student societies across the country are offering similar emergency scholarships for those sneaking out of federal aid, such as Brock University, the University of Toronto, the University of Victoria, and MacEwan University, among others. Students who are not eligible for federal funds should consult their school’s scholarship schemes.
Meanwhile, the federal government has injected enough funds into the Canada Summer Jobs program to create up to 70,000 youth jobs in the retail, communications, transportation, agriculture, and other industries. Those interested should consult the Federal Labor Bank to begin their search.
Students who are still coming out dry should speak up, says Adam Brown, president of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Brown says he and his team are currently advocating for students across the country at the federal level, and from what he has seen, Ottawa is listening.
“If there are other students who are falling through the cracks and could be missed, more will be able to speak or communicate with their own student associations or contact (CASA), [the better]”Says Brown.” We can continue to report those gaps to the federal government. That is definitely what helps everything work. “
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 12, 2020.
Audrey Carleton, The Canadian Press