Students wondering how to pay for essentials as summer work disappears

Students wondering how to pay for essentials as summer work disappears

Students wondering how to pay for essentials as summer work disappears

Like countless students across the country, Brandon Amyot’s summer work plans have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The incoming third-year political science student at Lakehead University in Orillia, Ont., who typically spends summers working in the non-profit sector, is facing a summer of unemployment and wondering where the money for rent and groceries will come from as the economy slowly emerges from a government mandated lockdown.

Amyot, who prefers to use gender-neutral pronouns, has exhausted most of the resources accessible to them and anticipates leaning on local food pantries to get by.

“Hopefully aid comes soon,” Amyot says. “If it starts to get into late May, you know, I’ll have to look at my options. But right now it’s kind of a week-by-week thing.”

The economic fallout from the coronavirus has cut off scores of young Canadians from summer jobs and internships, which usually help them bridge gaps between tuition payments. And up until April 22, when Ottawa introduced the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), students like Amyot were left uncovered by existing aid programs — namely the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which requires applicants to have made at least $5,000 in 2019.

CESB offers students who aren’t eligible for CERB $1,250 per month (or $1,750 per month for those with dependents or disabilities) between May and August. It’s part of a nine-billion dollar aid package for post-secondary students and recent graduates that also includes wage subsidies for employers with Canada Summer Jobs, enhanced and extended research grants, and increased weekly student loan payments.

The sum of a summer’s CESB cheques comes out to be more than what Amyot would typically make at a non-profit job earning minimum wage, though applications for CESB won’t open until May 15. Critics say the funding is coming too late, as nearly two months of lockdown without aid has left students scrambling to make ends meet.

“I have applied for some work, mostly essential work in grocery stores and things like that,” says Amyot. “I haven’t heard back; the few that I did hear back from had filled the positions at the time … And I am at the point where I’m going to run out of groceries in a few days.”

Amyot feels lucky to qualify for CESB at all, as large sectors of students are not eligible for the program, including international students. Claudia Rupnik, incoming fourth-year student at Queen’s University and news editor of the Queen’s Journal, says international students at the school are “feeling very much like they have fallen through the cracks.” Coronavirus-related travel restrictions have prevented many from returning home for the summer, so a large portion of students are stuck in Canada without money to live on.

Rupnik also notes that while the CESB offers enough to cover basic needs, it’s far lower than what most students say they’d earn through a paid internship. A number of her peers, including those planning to apply for CESB, are now left re-evaluating how they’ll pay for school come fall.

In the meantime, Queen’s University has released two-million dollars in bursary funding for students having trouble paying their immediate bills, with a fraction dedicated specifically to international graduate students.

Other schools and students’ societies across the country are offering similar emergency scholarships for those slipping through the cracks of federal aid, including Brock University, the University of Toronto, the University of Victoria, and MacEwan University, among others. Students who aren’t eligible for federal funding should consult their schools’ bursary schemes.

Meanwhile, the federal government has injected enough funding into the Canada Summer Jobs program to create up to 70,000 jobs for youth in retail, communications, transport, agriculture, and other industries. Those interested should consult the federal Job Bank to start their search.

Students who are still coming out dry should speak up, says Adam Brown, chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations. Brown says he and his team are currently advocating for students across the country at the federal level — and from what he’s seen, Ottawa is listening.

“If there are other students who are falling through the cracks and might be missed, the more that they’re able to speak out or contact their own student associations or contact (CASA), [the better],” Brown says. “We can continue to communicate those gaps to the federal government. That’s definitely what helps get that stuff going.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 12, 2020.

Audrey Carleton, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version had the incorrect CERB qualifying period in the 5th graf

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
City of Wetaskiwin COVID-19 deaths increase to five

New COVID-19 death in the City of Wetaskiwin despite decrease in active cases.

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Maskwacis RCMP regular members, Community Tripartite Agreement (CTA) members and support staff proudly wore pink in support of Pink Shirt Day on Feb. 24, 2021. Supplied/ Maskwacis RCMP.
Maskwacis RCMP embraces Pink Shirt Day

Maskwacis RCMP engage in virtual presentations with schools on anti-bullying for Pink Shirt Day.

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Be kind and wear pink for Pink Shirt Day

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

Mike Ammeter (Photo by Rebecca Hadfield)
Sylvan Lake man elected chair of Canadian Canola Growers Association

Mike Ammeter is a local farmer located near the Town of Sylvan Lake

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Todd Hirsch. (Image: screenshot)
ATB vice president gives financial forecast to Ponoka chamber

Predictions for reopening of the economy and recovery outlined

Most Read