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.
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.
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 (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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 processes 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.
As of July 15, 2020, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced the following:
- International students who had a valid study permit, or who were approved for a study permit on or before March 18, 2020, are exempt from travel restrictions that prevented most foreign nationals from countries other than the United States from entering Canada. All students, including those entering Canada from the United States, are only admitted to Canada if their travel is essential and they have a credible plan to quarantine for 14 days.
- Students in Canada who were forced to study online, reduce their studies to part-time, or take a break from their studies completely, as a result of restrictions on classroom learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, are allowed to continue working on- or off-campus if their study permit allows it.
- Students already in Canada were assured that they wouldn’t lose their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit if they were forced to complete more than 50% of their program online, reduce their studies to part-time or take a break from their studies completely as a result of restrictions on classroom learning due to the pandemic.
- Until August 31, 2020, international students are permitted to work more than 20 hours per week off-campus during their academic sessions if they are employed in an essential service or function.
- Students beginning a new study program in the 2020 spring, summer, or fall semesters can begin their classes online from abroad without affecting their eligibility for a post-graduation work permit, provided they are able to complete at least 50% of their program in Canada.
- Students starting a program in the spring, summer, or fall semester won’t have time deducted from the length of their post-graduation work permit for studies completed from outside Canada until the end of 2020.
- More information on the most recent updates for international students and other immigration applicants is available here: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/coronavirus-covid19.html
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.
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
- Offers mental health & wellness resources for people under the age of 24
MENTAL HEALTH DURING COVID-19 PANDEMIC WEBPAGE FROM CAMH
- Go to https://www.camh.ca/en/health-info/mental-health-and-covid-19
- Resources on coping with stress & anxiety, dealing with quarantine or isolation, and online mental health assessment tools such as the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).
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.
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.
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.
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