The Federal Government has announced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), a program that will provide some relief to those students who do not qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). While this new program addresses some of the gaps in eligibility for the CERB, it provides markedly less financial support to students.

The CESB will provide students who don’t qualify for the CERB with up to $1,250 per month in financial assistance, or up to $1,750 if the applicant has a disability or cares for a dependent. The program still requires approval from Parliament, and the financial assistance will be retroactive to May 1 – meaning that it will not be available until sometime later in May. This means that many Canadians who have been waiting for assistance for several weeks will be forced to continue to wait longer.

“COVID-19 is causing economic and social problems that Canada has never faced before,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “Now more than ever we need a comprehensive, universally accessible, relief program that is open to all Canadians so they can continue to put food on their tables and support their families.”

With such an uncertain economic future, Canadians need relief. Expanding the CERB would allow Canadians to get an infusion of cash that is greatly needed to pay for rent, bills, groceries, or to invest back into our local economies. Our local economies would benefit immensely from such investments and protecting local small business and jobs is crucial to helping assist in the long term plan for economic recovery moving forward.

The BCFS has been calling on the Federal Government to expand access to the CERB for all Canadians. A copy of its letter to the Prime Minister can be viewed here.

“Young people and their families need the Federal government to be bold and follow the lead of other countries in introducing a universal relief program,” said Klassen. “This would cut down on bureaucratic administration and get much need financial support in the hands of all who need it.”

Today’s announcement included the introduction of a volunteering-related grant and an infusion of funding for the Canada Student Grant Program. These measures will be welcome relief for students to access post-secondary education in the Fall; however, they do not address the immediate need for financial support.