Written for Daily Hive by the Hon. Dr. Hedy Fry, MP for Vancouver Centre.
The federal government’s response to the economic impact of COVID-19 has exposed some sectors in our society where persons, with informal or irregular attachment to the workforce, have been left without financial assistance.
Students in the post-secondary education cohort are a major example.
I have been hearing from many who have recently graduated, ready to take their place in the workforce, only to find that business closures, due to COVID-19 restrictions, have created a jobless environment. They are ineligible for EI and cannot qualify for social assistance. Students still in post-secondary institutions and those ready to begin this fall find themselves in the same quandary: unable to pay rent, unable to buy basic necessities.
I passed these concerns on to the prime minister’s office, as did many of my colleagues across the country.
The Government of Canada heard your messages loud and clear.
Last week, the prime minister announced $9 billion in financial support for post-secondary students and graduates, those in postgraduate studies, or those who have grants (which will be honoured and extended).
All Canadian students are eligible regardless of whether they attend a public or private institution, provided they are in a certification or diploma program.
No one should have to drop out of university or college because of this virus or forfeit gaining the experience needed to start their careers.
As we enter a post-COVID Canada, and we begin to kick-start our economy, students will be an essential part of that economic recovery immediately and in the long-term.
Just as it’s important to ensure businesses remain viable with the Emergency Benefit packages set out and that workers have maintained an attachment to their jobs through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
Here are some of the measures we’ve taken:
The new Canada Emergency Student Benefit covers students who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. It’s a payment of $1,250 per month from May to August (for those with a disability or a child, the benefit is equal to the $2,000 Canada Emergency Response Benefit).
The new Canada Student Service Grant will help students gain valuable work experience and skills while they help their communities during the COVID‑19 pandemic. This applies to national service or community service and will provide up to $5,000 for their education in the fall.
The Government of Canada will expand existing federal employment, skills development, and youth programming to create up to 116,000 jobs, placements, and other training opportunities to help students find employment and develop valuable skills this summer and over the coming months.
We’re also increasing existing distinctions-based support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis students pursuing post-secondary education by providing an additional $75.2 million in 2020-21.
The Government of Canada is extending federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships and supplementing existing federal research grants, to support students and postdoctoral fellows, by providing $291.6 million to the federal granting councils. In addition, the government intends to enhance work opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows through the National Research Council of Canada.
Our government is listening, adapting, and—most importantly—we’re ready to take additional steps as needed to stabilize the economy and migrate the impacts of this pandemic on Canadians.
Thank you for maintaining physical distancing, for checking on your neighbours, for washing your hands, and for following public health orders. As COVID-19 continues, please also ensure you’re looking after your mental health. It’s normal to feel anxious.
We’ve set up a portal to provide mental health help if you need support.
We’re all in this together.
For updates on COVID-19, visit canada.ca/coronavirus or call 1-833-784-4397. If you need help accessing Government of Canada services, Dr. Fry’s team can be reached at 604-666-0135, firstname.lastname@example.org, or through HedyFry.com.