Applications for student pandemic assistance to open Friday

Benefits range from $1,250 to $2,000 a month

Students facing little hope of landing a summer job during the pandemic will be able to apply for federal assistance beginning Friday (May 15).

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled the $9-billion Canada Emergency Student Benefit in late April, but it was not clear at the time when students would be able to tap into it.

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He confirmed during his daily media briefing Wednesday (May 13) that students could begin applying through the Canada Revenue Agency at the end of the week.

The benefit is worth $1,250 a month, covering May to August.

It goes up to $2,000 a month for students with disabilities or for those with a dependent.

The benefit will apply to current students as well as those who graduated stretching back to December 2019.

Trudeau also said nearly $1 billion in previously announced funding would be allocated through a number of regional agencies, including Western Economic Diversification Canada.

The funding would be available to businesses that may not have qualified for other programs such as the 75% wage-subsidy program or loans from the Canada Emergency Business Account.

Meanwhile, Trudeau was pressed by reporters throughout his briefing on the status of the Canada-U.S. border.

An agreement to restrict non-essential travel between the countries expires May 21 and a growing chorus on provincial officials, including in B.C., have urged that restrictions remain in place.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Bonnie Henry made it clear Tuesday the province would not allow travellers to disembark in B.C.

Cruise ships, for example, could stop on the West Coast for refuelling and resupplying, but passengers would not be allowed off.

"We are, as you can imagine, not in favour of cruise ships coming into anywhere in British Columbia," Henry said this week.

Trudeau said Wednesday that conversations with the Trump administration have been constructive.

“Every country recognizes that as we control our domestic situation, we are vulnerable to international travellers. Different countries are facing different challenges,” he said.

“I won’t make any announcements today but I can say that things are going well and we’re confident about being able to continue keeping Canadians safe.”

Last month the prime minister said it would be a “significant” period of time before border restrictions between the two countries ease.

Those returning to Canada after being abroad are required to self-isolate for two weeks.

Those who do not present border officials with a credible plan to self-isolate face being placed in a hotel by the government for the two-week period.

The prime minister also faced questions Wednesday on the status of the federal budget, which has been on hold as the pandemic intensified two months ago.

“A budget is usually something that projects what’s going to happen in the Canadian economy for the next 12 months and right now we’re having a lot of difficulty establishing with any certainty what’s going to happen in the next 12 weeks,” Trudeau said

“We have been focused very much on responding to this unprecedented situation by getting money into the pockets of Canadians, of workers, of families who need it right across the country. Unlike previous recessions or economic downturns, this is a situation that has no antecedents.”

—With a file from Nelson Bennett


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