Last Updated May 20

COVID-19, or the Coronavirus, has affected every aspect of our daily lives. In this time of uncertainty and rapidly changing circumstances, we want to help keep you in the loop of announcements, changes, and issues impacting students and young adults. This global pandemic has required a never-before-seen response from all levels of government to look into extraordinary measures. We are doing our best to stay up-to-date with the daily announcements, and we will be updating this page with the reliefs being made available to students along with links and resources to help you during this time.

It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of supports. It is likely more and more supports will be announced over time based on the length of the pandemic response and how long it takes the economy to recover.

The Big Picture

The most important thing for all British Columbians to do is to heed the advice of Minister of Health Adrian Dix and BC’s Chief Health Officer, Dr. Henry. For now that means a few key actions: don’t gather in groups of more than 50 (and much lower where possible) and when in public places practice social distancing by keeping two metres — or two full arm lengths — away from others.

Canadians are being advised that where possible, we should stay home and avoid physical contact with others. This is called social isolation – but really it’s just physical isolation. In these times we should all do what we can to reach out to others, use social media and technology to make sure our friends and family feel connected. We’re millennials and Gen-Zs… we’ve been practicing for this moment our whole lives!

Here’s a useful article and diagram to help explain the difference between social distancing, social isolation, and quarantine. It’s important to understand what we can and can’t do while taking action.

How are classes being impacted?

As you are already aware, all public post-secondary schools in BC have transitioned, or are in the process of transitioning, to online teaching. Keeping students safe while completing the semester is incredibly important, but it has the potential to keep many students on the sidelines. If you don’t have a computer at home, or if you have very limited internet access, contact your instructor: together you can work to find a solution that will enable you to be successful in your studies for the remainder of the semester. If you are having any issues getting the appropriate accommodations, contact your students’ union for support. Most are operating advocacy services remotely can are here to help!

The shift away from in-person training is being felt particularly hard in those programs that require hands-on training, such as trades, health programs, and theatre/performing arts. Faculty are working hard to create program delivery as best they can; additionally the Industry Training Authority is currently developing solutions to address concerns with trades training. We will do our best to provide updates as these solutions are announced and rolled out.

It is expected that summer courses will continue to be available, and that they will be facilitated online.

WHAT RELIEFS ARE AVAILABLE TO ME?

A number of relief measures have been put in place by the provincial and federal governments. Additionally, your municipal government is likely implementing local measures to provide relief and supports; we encourage you to visit your city’s website to find what is being done. The following is a non-exhaustive list of measures enacted by the BC and federal governments.

ASSISTANCE WITH INCOME

Many businesses are choosing or being forced to close, and that has a huge impact on the income of a lot of people – and a lot of students especially. Additionally, as workers get sick (even with just a cold or regular flu) they have a responsibility to self-quarantine; without paid sick leave in BC this creates an issue for income.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

The Federal Government will provide a taxable benefit for $500 per week for up to 16 weeks to:

  • Workers who had to stop working due to COVID-19 and no don’t have access to paid leave or other income supports
  • Workers who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone sick with COVID-19
  • Working parents who now must stay home because of school and daycare closures.
  • Workers who are still employed, but facing shortages of work or reduced hours who do not otherwise qualify for EI.
  • Wage earners and self-employed individuals, including contract workers, who would not otherwise be eligible for EI.

This new program applies to all these individuals, whether they qualify for EI or not. This program will be managed through the Canadian Revenue Agency, which is expected to provide a more streamlined application process.

Individuals can be eligible for this program even if you’re still making a little bit of money: under $1,000 per month. This can help those who pick up odd jobs, or have managed to keep one of their part-time jobs.

This benefit replaces the previously announced Emergency Care Benefit and the Emergency Support Benefit.

More information about the Canada Emergency Response Benefit can be found here.

Applications for the CERB opened on April 6 and can be accessed here.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit

The Federal Government will provide a taxable benefit of up to $1,250 per month from May to August to those students who do not otherwise qualify for the CERB. This benefit may be topped up to $2,000 per month for those caring for a dependent or those with a disability.

Individuals can be eligible for this program even if you’re still making a little bit of money. As with the CERB, you may earn less than $1,000 per month and maintain eligibility.

Applications for the CESB opened on May 15 and can be accessed here.

Employment Insurance (EI) Sickness Benefit

The Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefit provides up to 15 weeks of income replacement and is available to eligible claimants who are unable to work because of illness, injury, or quarantine, to allow them time to restore their health and return to work. Canadians quarantined can apply for the Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefit.

Please note, EI has waived the one-week wait period as well as the medical note in order to apply. More information can be found here.

If you require the one week wait period to be waved, or would like any more information on the EI Sickness Benefit you may contact them via phone.

Telephone: 1-833-381-2725 (toll-free)
Teletypewriter (TTY): 1-800-529-3742

Employment Insurance

Employment Insurance (EI) provides regular benefits to individuals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own (for example, due to shortage of work, seasonal or mass lay-offs) and are available for and able to work, but can’t find a job.

You may be entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) regular benefits if you:

  • were employed in insurable employment;
  • lost your job through no fault of your own;
  • have been without work and without pay for at least seven consecutive days in the last 52 weeks;
  • have worked for the required number of insurable employment hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of your last EI claim, whichever is shorter;
  • are ready, willing and capable of working each day;
  • are actively looking for work (you must keep a written record of employers you contact, including when you contacted them).

More information can be found here.

Special Goods and Services Tax Credit

Low- and modest-income families who receive this GST Credit will receive an additional benefit of close to $400 for individuals or $600 dollars for couples on their May cheque.

There is no need to apply. If you are eligible you will get it automatically.

BC Emergency Benefit for Workers

The BC Government has announced an emergency benefit for workers. This Benefit will be a one-time tax-free payment of $1,000 for British Columbians who receive Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. This includes workers who have been laid-off, who are sick or quarantined, parents with sick children, parents who stay at home from work while child care centres and schools are closed, and those caring for sick family members, such as an elderly parent. Workers who are traditionally not eligible for EI, such as those who are self-employed, are also eligible for this Benefit.

Applications for the BC Emergency Benefit for Workers opened on May 13 and can be accessed here.

Canada Summer Jobs Program

The Federal Government has announced additional incentive for businesses and organisations to hire students through the Canada Summer Jobs Program, which includes paying 100% of wages; extending the end date of the employment to February 2021; and allowing the positions to be part-time.

More information about the Canada Summer Jobs Program announcement can be found here.

Grants for the Program are awarded to businesses in May; we will post a link to a centralized listing of jobs through the Program when it comes available.

Emergency Bursary Fund for Students

The BC Government has invested an additional $3.5 million in its existing emergency bursary fund for students. This funding was distributed equally to every institution: $140,000 is available for students at each institution. Monies in this fund are only available for students from British Columbia.

ASSISTANCE WITH expenses
Canada Childcare Benefit

Recipients will receive an additional $300 per child on their regular May payment. If you have already applied for, or currently receive payment of the benefit, there is no need to reapply to receive this additional amount.

More information on the Canada Childcare Benefit can be found here.

Moratorium on Repayment of Canada Student Loan

Effective March 30, there will be a six-month moratorium on student loan payments. That means that all payments for federal student loans, including auto-payments, are automatically on hold, and no interest will accrue during this time. This measure will be incredibly helpful for those who are struggling to pay bills, rent, and other expenses with shrinking income. More information about this can be found here. This measure will also apply to those who are in default or are in the process of rehabilitating their loan.

Moratorium on BC Student Loan Payments

Like the Federal Government, the BC Government has also put a six month moratorium on student loan payments, which are already interest free. All payments will be paused, including those with automatic payments as of April 1.

Relief for Renters

The BC Government is providing a renter support package that includes:

  • halting new and active evictions, except for exceptional circumstances, so no one is evicted because of COVID-19
  • providing up to $500 per month for April, May, and June to help renters make rent payments; this supplement will get paid directly to landlords after the renter applies.
  • Freezing annual rent increases as of April 1

There are additional measures being enacted to support renters and landlords. Click here for a helpful breakdown of the Temporary Rental Supplement provided by BC Housing, including to access online application.

This program is available only for those who have lost income as a direct result of COVID-19. Providing evidence of this is a part of the application process.

This program is available to eligible roommates – that is, if you live with a roommate who is not your immediate family member you can each apply for the Temporary Rental Supplement.

Note that this program is available for international students.

Fare-Free Public Transportation

There are two big changes with public transit. First, they are implementing boarding on buses at rear doors only where possible, in order to maintain distancing from the driver. Second, fares for buses will not be collected for the next 30 days at minimum. It is likely there could some changes to bus routes and available to ensure transit users can still practice social distancing while riding. Be sure to check BC Transit and TransLink websites for any route change announcements.

It appears that these changes are being implemented in all regions of the province.

BC Hydro

BC Hydro is offering targeted bill relief to residential customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. Customers will receive a credit to help cover the cost of their electricity bills; the credit will be three times their average monthly bill over the past year at their home and does not have to be repaid. The average residential customer’s bill is $159 per month, so BC Hydro claims the average credit provided will be $477. Learn more about the COVID-19 Relief Fund here.

Additionally, some customers may be eligible for BC Hydro’s existing Customer Crisis Fund, which provides access to grants of up to $600 to pay their bills. Learn more about the Customer Crisis Fund here.

FortisBC

Like BC Hydro, FortisBC is offering targeted bill relief to residential and small business customers who have lost their jobs or are unable to work as a result of COVID-19. This  COVID-19 Customer Recovery Fund allows customers to defer payments from April 1 to June 30, 2020, and helps customers create a repayment schedule that spreads the deferred payments over the subsequent 12 months. Learn more about the COVID-19 Customer Recovery Fund here.

IS THERE ASSISTANCE FOR International Students?

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a lot of global insecurity in the world, and international students are not immune to this uncertainty. International students should reach out to their home country consulate to apply for any supports and resources that are being made available for citizens abroad.

International students who have been working in Canada and are facing layoffs can apply for EI by following the same requirements and process listed above. This should be done as soon as possible after stoppage of work to minimize time without income.

International students are eligible to apply for the renter support program.

It has also been announced by Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) that courses being delivered online because of COVID-19 will not affect eligibility for the Post-Graduate Work Permit Program.

The Federation Government has removed the restriction that allows international students to work a maximum of 20 hours per week while classes are in session, provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods. For instance, thousands of international students are studying in health- and emergency service-related programs, including many who are nearly fully trained and ready to graduate. This temporary rule change provides health-care facilities with access to additional well-trained workers at a time when they are badly needed.

If you are currently in Canada, but your student visa status is close to expiration, you are encouraged to extend your status online. Until a decision is made on your renewal, you are allowed to stay in the country even if your status has expired. However, you are not to travel to a point of entry to apply directly to a border service officer. That travel is not considered essential.

International students who have a study visa for the Spring semester, but have not yet traveled to Canada should check the IRCC website. Travel exemptions for students have been discussed but are not yet implemented. Check this page for more information.

What’s Happening with Childcare?

At the time, daycares remain open. However, Dr. Henry has requested all parents who don’t require childcare to withdraw their children if possible. With many parents working or studying at home, this measure can be taken with little issue, and it helps to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in crowded daycares. Daycares remain open specifically to aid those parents who are still working, like the front line workers in health care at essential places like grocery stores. If you remove your child during this time, the provincial government has made assurances that you will not lose your place in the daycare facility.

Is there somewhere to go for Mental Health Support? 

There is much uncertainty and anxiety in these times. In order to alleviate these feelings, we are working very hard to ensure that students are receiving useful and easy to understand summaries of all the reliefs available. But these times can feel very isolating. Here are some services that could help you out if you’re are struggling.

BC Mental Health Support Line
  • Call 310-Mental Health (310-6789) – no area code needed
  • 24hrs/day, 7 days a week
FOUNDRY BC
Mental Health During COVID-19 Pandemic Webpage from CAMH
here2talk – student mental health support

The BC Government has launched its mental health support service for post-secondary students, called Here2Talk. This is not a service that is specifically a COVID-19 response, but its launch was pushed up by nearly one month in order to more quickly provide supports for those who need them.

Here2Talk is available for download on the App Store and Google Play; it’s also available as a phone service and accessible via the web at Here2Talk.ca.

Health Supports

COVID-19 symptoms can range from very mild to severe, but often feel similar to a flu. In order to stay healthy during this time, here are a couple supports you can use.

If you think you may have COVID-19, please use the BC Government’s self-assessment tool. It will give you recommendations about treatment, self-isolation, or quarantine.

If you require medical advice, you call the HealthLink BC line by dialing 811. They will connect you to a nurse who you can discuss any medical concern with. This line is available in 130 different languages.

If you are experiences any symptoms like severe shortness of breath, contact 911 immediately.

Anything Else?

BCcampus is providing a series of free webinars to help students be successful in this difficult time. The topics range from tips for online classes to advocating for your rights to resources for vulnerable populations. Here is a listing and more information about BCcampus’ webinars.

We are officially in a public health emergency. It is up to every single one of us to do everything we can to reduce the chances of spreading the Coronavirus. Take precautions, even if you feel silly. But remember: this is a time to be in touch with others for your own sake and for theirs. Let’s help each other as much as we can.