Financial help for students and recent grads affected by COVID-19


Find out whether you qualify for the new Canada Emergency Student Benefit, CERB, student loan repayment deferral or other assistance to help cover the cost of post-secondary education.

Financial help for students and recent grads affected by COVID-19

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

Being a student isn’t easy on your finances even at the best of times—and these most certainly aren’t the best of times. Hit with the double whammy of COVID-19 and its related economic slowdown, many post-secondary students and recent grads are worried, or already feeling a serious pinch. But there is some financial relief for students during the COVID pandemic.

We’ve compiled some frequently asked questions and answers about how to budget expenses and student loan debt in the time of COVID-19, as well as some strategies to help protect and grow any cash you’ve managed to save. 

What is the Canada Emergency Student Benefit?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced student relief in the form of emergency benefits totalling more than $9 billion, for those who are currently enrolled in a post-secondary program, as well as new grads, who aren’t able to work the summer jobs they anticipated having due to COVID-19 shutdowns. Students who are unable to find work due to COVID-19 can apply for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, also known as CESB, with payments backdated to as early as May 10, 2020. To verify your eligibility, the Canada Revenue Agency may ask for information that confirms you have been searching for a job. Eligible students will still receive $1,250 for each four-week period, while students with dependents or who have disabilities can receive up to $2,000, up to August 29, 2020.

I currently have a job, but my hours have been reduced. A lot. Do I qualify for financial relief with the CESB?

If you’re employed, but making under $1,000 a month, you will be covered by the new Emergency Student Benefit relief program.

Ok, but what about students who had a job, but can’t work anymore due to COVID-19 measures?

If you used to have a job and made at least $5,000 in the last year, you will be eligible for CERB. (If you want to know more about the CERB, including how to apply, check out our coverage here.)  

What kinds of student loans are available?

The Prime Minister also announced that the weekly amount provided through the Canada student loans program will be increasing to $350 from $210  for the 2020-21 school year; as well, as an additional $75 million will be made available to Indigenous students. Finally, $290 million has been made available to granting councils to help fund graduate student scholarships and federal research grants.

I’ve heard about deferrals for student loan repayments. What are those?

The Federal government has suspended all interest accrual and payments on the Federal portion of your student loan until Sept. 30, 2020. If you normally make your payments by pre-authorized debit or by cheque, you don’t need to do anything to take advantage of the break; however, if you make automatic loan payments through your bank, you must contact your bank to stop the payments until after Sept. 30. 

If the provincial part of your loan was issued in Ontario, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan or British Columbia, you can sit tight as the deferral will also cover your provincial loans. However, if the provincial portion of your loan was issued in any of the remaining provinces or territories,  (that’s Quebec, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Manitoba, Yukon, NWT and Nunavut), you’ll have to check with those loan providers directly. Note, this deferral only applies to students who have just graduated or are already paying their loans. So, if you’ve just graduated you don’t have to start paying until September and if you’re not graduating this year you won’t have to worry about making payments till after you do. 

Is there still time to get a job through the Canada Summer Jobs (CSJ) program?  

Yes! Temporary changes to the program were announced on April 8, 2020 by the federal government, to help those experiencing difficulties finding work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CSJ program officially started its hiring period on May 15, 2020. You can find postings on the Job Bank for Canadian Youth open to those aged 15 to 30 years of age. The latest start date is July 20, 2020. Placements can now be part-time (less than 30 hours per week), and the employment period has been extended to February 28, 2021.

With files from Matthew McCarthy

  • How do credit card payment deferrals work during COVID-19?
  • Where to find and apply for COVID-19 financial relief
  • What is an emergency fund and how to build one
  • The best place to stash your emergency fund




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