COVID-19 Student Financial Assistance

Everything You Need to Know about the Canada Emergency Student Benefit and other financial relief programs for students.

Since the COVID-19 shutdown, many students have faced difficulty securing employment over the summer months. In May 2020, the government made a few resources available to assist students through this difficult time, and you may find this information helpful if you are faced with difficult financial situation. As our way of life and best practices to reduce the spread of the virus are changing and improving every day, it can be important to stay on top of available resources, if you require assistance and are qualified to receive it.

  1. Canada Emergency Student Benefit

One of the major programs is known as the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). Though we are two months in and the 16 week eligibility period is halfway complete, as of July 6, 2020, the third application period just opened. If you are not sure if the CESB is for you or are already receiving the CESB and are unclear on any of the following, this may be a great time to get the facts and stay informed.  

What is the CESB? 

The Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), is government funding that provides financial assistance to post-secondary students or recent graduates who are unable to secure full-time employment over the summer because of COVID-19. If you qualify, you could be provided with a payment of $1250/month (or an additional $750 if you have dependents or a disability) for up to four months within the specified application period dates. These four week periods are allotted between May and August 2020, and students can apply for these funds retroactively. This means if you have not received payments but qualify, and require assistance, you can apply for those missed months until September 2020. These funds are meant to help students stay afloat who cannot find summer jobs, or are unable to make over $1000 a month when they would typically be working and saving money for the upcoming year. 

Who qualifies for the CESB?

The following information is condensed from the Government of Canada. For clarification and full information, be sure to visit the CESB information page.

  • The CESB is provided to Canadian students (and those studying abroad) who are:
  • unable to work; or seeking work but are unable to find it; orCannot obtain fulltime work and are not making more than $1000 a month due to COVID-19. ineligible for the regular Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)ineligible for EICurrent criteria indicates that you must also fall into at least one of these three categories:
  • Students enrolled in a post-secondary education program (with a duration of at least 12 weeks) leading to a degree, diploma, or certificateStudents who have completed, or will complete, high school in 2020 and have applied for a post-secondary educational program that begins before February 1, 2021
  • Students who have graduated from or left their post-secondary studies no earlier than December 2019Canadians in apprenticeship programs who meet the eligibility criteria may also qualify for the CESB.

Important Note: Students who apply for the CESB and are working part-time or reduced hours, can earn up to $1,000 (before taxes) while still receiving the CESB. However, unemployed students are expected to be actively looking for a job to remain eligible for the CESB. This helps to ensure those who can find work, are not receiving the benefit. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) states that they may ask you to verify that you were indeed looking for work during those eligibility periods where you received assistance. It is unclear exactly what kinds of verification they may ask for, so keep as many documents, emails, notes, and records related to your search as possible.

How do I apply?

Eligible individuals can apply through the Canada Revenue Agency’s My Account, be sure to have your Social Insurance Number on hand to apply. The government of Canada encourages students to utilize the direct deposit payment option and double-check that their contact information is up-to-date before you begin the application process. The funds should appear within your account within 3 business days. Also, remember that these payments are not automatic, and students must re-assess their eligibility and reapply for each four-week period.

2. Suspension of Student Loans Payments/Interest

If you are a recently graduated student who is past your 6 month grace period and has begun paying back loans, you may also benefit from the suspension of Alberta and Canada student loan payments and interest charges from March 30, 2020, to September 30, 2020.

This pause on repayments should take effect automatically, and borrowers do not need to apply for anything for this benefit to take effect. However, if you have been previously set up for your bank to automatically take out payments, you will have to disable this feature by contacting your bank. Some people may wish to keep making payments throughout this period, and they may do so through their secure NSLSC account or online banking.

3. The Canada Student Service Grant

The Canada Student Service Grant (CSSG) is a one-time payment provided to post-secondary students/recent graduates who take advantage of volunteer opportunities in their communities’ COVID-19 response. The payment is based on the number of hours worked and falls between $1000-$5000 dollars. For every 100 hours completed, levels of payment are provided at $1000 increments, with a maximum of $5000 dollars and 500 hours.

Volunteers will have to reach the full level of 100 hours in order to receive the corresponding increment of payment, which means payment rules abide by hours completed only and does not round up. For example, 170 hours would still land you in the $1000/100 hour level of payment, reaching $2000 only once 200 hours are completed. This information may be valuable to individuals who are planning their schedules around volunteering or can only commit a particular level of hours.

Individuals receiving the CESB are still eligible to participate in this program, although if you are receiving other financial assistance such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit ($2000/month CERB payment) you will not qualify and should obtain further clarification around your individual circumstances. Other benefits of participating include gaining access to 25 hours of LinkedIn Learning online materials, networking and building connections in your community, utilizing your strengths for a cause you care about, and building critical workplace skills to further your future career.

Visit the I Want to Help website to apply or obtain more information and learn which not-for-profit organizations in your area are looking for help during the pandemic. This could be a great opportunity to give back to your community, as well as gain some fantastic experience to put on a resume!

The deadline to register for CSSG is August 21, 2020.If you’d like more information about this opportunity, please contact Saitsa’s Volunteer Coordinator, Bekah Callaghan: