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Canada Emergency Student Benefit comes with strings attached
VANCOUVER -- May 13 update: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced today that students can start applying for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit on Friday and encouraged students to set up an account with CRA in order to receive the money.
The pandemic put a hold on post-secondary classes and left many wondering what will happen when the fall semester rolls around.
Students are between jobs, between classes and getting nervous about how to make money this summer as they struggle to pay the bills and prepare for the coming school year.
University of British Columbia student Lukas Hrgovic isn't sure what he's going to do. The restaurant where he works is closed and he doesn't know when he'll be called back.
"It's kind of uncertain right now," he says. "It's pretty difficult."
To help, the Canadian government announced an emergency benefit for students on April 22, opening for applications on May 15.
"My parents have been really on me to get on it," Hrgovic pointed out.
Kinesiology student Tommy Xu was hoping to do some online teaching this summer, but isn't sure he'll make enough money. He says he could be applying for the benefit.
"Maybe, potentially," Xu says. "It's kind of up for grabs at the moment."
At the Ottawa announcement last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) would give students $1,250 a month from May to August of this year, and up to $1,750 for students with dependants or disabilities.
"You might normally turn to your parents for help, but right now mom and dad are stretched too," he said.
But there have been changes since then. The benefit for student with dependents and those with disabilities has been increased to $2,000 a month.
Also, students receiving the CESB must show they are actively looking for a summer job.
Tanysha Klassen, chairperson of the B.C. Federation of Students, says the CESB criteria could force some students into jobs where they don't feel safe.
"Students are being told they should get a job, volunteer, (that) they should be front-line workers in grocery stores and care homes," she says. "And that just doesn't make any sense."
Those getting the CERB, which is $2,000 each month, aren't required to prove to the government that they're looking to find a job to replace the one they lost. Klassen believes there should have been a universal CERB benefit, something that was proposed by the NDP.
"It doesn't make sense, why students should be getting less than anybody else," Klassen says.
Dan Albas, member of parliament for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, is one of the Conservatives who pushed for the changes.
"We've called for these programs to be looked at through the lens of not just closing down the economy but actually opening up," Albas says. "I believe young Canadians and mature students want to be able to work and contribute, if there is safe work available."
Xu says that condition doesn't upset him.
"I'm not too pissed off about it. Unless they get really stingy about what they mean when you're applying for work," he says.
Hrgovic had hoped he would have qualified for the CERB, since he was put out of work when the restaurant closed. However, he says he didn't have quite enough income to qualify, so he'll have to apply for the student benefit. But he's concerned if he applies, he'll have to say goodbye to his old job.
"I'm going to be likely out of luck because I'm not really looking for work," Hrgovic says. "I have a job - I just can't work it."
He says he may volunteer until his old job opens back up, which could qualify him for up to $5,000 in support for education costs under the Canada Student Service Grant, part of the federal student aid package.
The CESB will also be available to graduating high school students if they fit certain criteria, and to those working towards the equivalent of a high school diploma.