Student groups urge feds to reallocate funding from WE Charity program
EDMONTON -- Student groups are urging the federal government to quickly reallocate funds reserved for the now-cancelled COVID-19 student grant project, saying that Canadian students have been left in financial limbo during the pandemic.
“The biggest challenge for students is that they are left in a limbo period right now,” Bryn De Chastelain, chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Association, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.
“A number of them were hoping to be able to access this student service grant or some of the other student grants that were made available this year. We’ve been pushing for the federal government is to ensure that, leading into the fall semester, no student in Canada is left behind.”
The $900-million student grant project, announced at the end of June in partnership with the WE Charity, was meant to help tens of thousands of Canadian students having trouble finding summer work during the pandemic by allowing them to volunteer up to 500 hours to earn the maximum $5,000 toward their post-secondary costs.
The deal was terminated on July 3 after allegations of a conflict of interest between the charity, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s families.
The federal government has yet to announce plans to relaunch the program, leaving students little time to accumulate hours to receive the grant or apply for alternate financial support packages before the fall semester.
“We initially saw details of this program announced in April. We waited for more information and only got that in the last week of June. We’re nearing August first here that means there’s about a month left for students to find a bit of money before the fall,” De Chastelain said.
“The time has run out on this program. And we’re hopeful that the government might be able to reallocate this money.”
De Chastelain notes that the job market has “evaporated” for students thanks to the pandemic, leaving many in a “financial hole.”
“For students who have been able to access the emergency response benefit, or the emergency student benefit, it’s been a huge support in terms of allowing students to focus a little bit more on their immediate payments, like rent or groceries,” he said.
“But students are still going to find themselves in a financial hole when it comes to thinking about paying tuition and additional fees in the fall.”
He notes that some of the federal programs have left international and mature students ineligible for financial assistance.
Earlier this week, the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) launched a petition asking the federal government to cancel the student service grant program and to reallocate funds to the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB).
"Students have waited for this program to roll out since April and now they're told they have to wait even longer, this is unacceptable,” Sofia Descalzi, National Chairperson of the CFS, said in a press release.
The CFS is urging the government to expand CESB to $2,000 a month and include recent graduates, and international students in the funding.