BACKGROUNDER: The Canada Emergency Student Benefit
The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provides emergency financial relief to students and recent graduates who are unable to work, or unable to find work, due to reasons related to COVID-19. It is also available for those who are working but not making more than $1,000 (before taxes) over the four-week period for which they are applying.
Students, including those studying abroad, are eligible for the CESB if they are:
- a Canadian citizen, including dual citizens;
- a registered Indian under the Indian Act;
- a permanent resident; or
- a protected person.
There are no age restrictions for who is eligible for the CESB.
Students are not eligible for the CESB if they are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance benefits for the same four-week period as their current application.
When applying, students must attest that for reasons related to COVID-19 they are:
- unable to work; or
- seeking work but are unable to find it; or
- working but unable to make more than $1,000 (before taxes) over the four-week period for which they are applying.
For those seeking work but unable to find it, they must continue to actively look for a job to be eligible for the CESB. Individuals who received the CESB for a given period and still cannot find work due to COVID-19, or cannot earn more than $1,000, can re-apply for each CESB eligibility period for which they are eligible. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) may ask them to provide information later to verify that they have been looking for work during the eligibility period(s) for which they applied.
Three categories of students are eligible for the CESB:
1. Students enrolled in a post-secondary education program
To be considered a post-secondary program for the purpose of the CESB, a program must meet all of the following criteria:
- taken at post-secondary level (means education at a university or college level, including education of a technical or vocational nature and vocational training at the secondary level in Quebec);
- a series of courses that last at least 12 weeks and lead to a degree, diploma, or certificate; and
- at a listed institution (from the Government of Canada’s Master List of Designated Educational Institutions or the Master List of Certified Educational Institutions or Quebec’s Répertoire des Établissements d’enseignement et des Programmes d’études or an Indigenous institution recognized by a province or territory).
Failure to meet any of the three criteria listed above would make a person ineligible. The CESB will be available to both part-time and full-time post-secondary students, as well as summer students.
Canadians in apprenticeship programs who meet the eligibility criteria (currently enrolled in a post-secondary education program) would also qualify for the CESB so long as they do not qualify for, or are in receipt of, the CERB and do not earn more than $1,000 (before taxes) per month.
2. Students who have graduated from or left their post-secondary studies no earlier than December 2019
3. Students who have completed, or will complete, high school in 2020 and have applied for a post‑secondary education program that begins before February 1, 2021
- High school students who complete or expect to complete their studies between June 7 and December 31, 2020, and have applied for and are intending to pursue post-secondary studies are eligible to receive two months of the CESB (July and August).
- Those who complete high school before June 7, 2020, are eligible to apply for the period that starts after their graduation. For example, if a student graduates on May 30, 2020, they can apply for three periods of the CESB (June to August). This also applies to students receiving their high school equivalency.
- High school students who have left their studies without graduating are not eligible. Only high school students who graduate in 2020 and who have applied to a post-secondary education program beginning before February 1, 2021, are eligible to apply.
- Students enrolled in CEGEP, and students who graduated from their CEGEP program no earlier than December 2019, can also apply for the CESB.
International students, temporary workers who have a Social Insurance Number beginning with “9”, and non‑resident students with international tax numbers are not eligible for the CESB.
Reasons for being unable to work
The reason for being “unable to work” must be related to COVID-19. Such reasons could include being in quarantine or ill, taking care of someone who is vulnerable to COVID-19 or taking care of dependants while their school or care facility is closed.
Individuals in self-isolation/quarantine include:
- those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are symptomatic and cannot otherwise physically or virtually attend work; and
- those with underlying health conditions (heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer, compromised immune system) who would face increased risk of developing severe complications from COVID-19.
Individuals providing care to others include:
- those taking care of others who are in quarantine or sick due to COVID-19;
- those living with someone who is vulnerable to COVID-19 (adults over the age of 65; underlying health conditions, etc.); and
- those taking care of children because their care facility or school is closed due to COVID-19.
In addition, students studying abroad are considered “unable to work” if:
- they are only authorized to work on campus, had been looking for work on campus but were unable to find it; and
- they contacted the Canadian Embassy to be repatriated and are waiting to return to Canada.
Note that someone who is unable to work due to reasons other than COVID-19 is not eligible for the CESB. For example, a full-time student who does not have time to work is not eligible.
Earning income while receiving the CESB
Students working full-time or part-time can earn up to $1,000 (before taxes) during the four-week period for which they are applying for the CESB. The $1,000 includes:
- employment/self-employment income;
- taxable benefits and allowances provided by an employer;
- tips a student may earn while working;
- non-eligible dividends;
- honoraria (e.g. nominal amounts paid to emergency service volunteers); and
- royalties (e.g. paid to artists).
The $1,000 limit does not include:
- pensions, student grants and loans, scholarships, bursaries, graduate stipends;
- family, common-law and spousal income;
- graduate stipends and bursaries; and
- educational funding for Indigenous students through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP).
If a recipient is later deemed to be ineligible—for example, because they earned more than $1,000 before taxes during the four-week period for which they received the benefit—they would need to repay the CESB through their CRA My Account.
Applicants will be required to attest to meeting the eligibility criteria and that the information they are providing is accurate. They do not have to provide documents as part of their CESB application. However, students may be asked to produce documents in the future to support their attestation. They should keep records to support their attestation at a future date.
Proof of education and enrollment
Post-secondary students and those who recently left or graduated from a post-secondary program should have documents showing that:
- they were attending classes or examinations in a post-secondary program any time between December 2019 and August 31, 2020 (e.g. transcript, tuition receipt); or
- they completed or graduated from a post-secondary program in December 2019 or later.
New post-secondary students with classes starting on or before February 1, 2021, who were not enrolled in high school in 2020 should have documents showing that:
their application for admission into a post-secondary program was accepted before the four-week CESB period for which they applied.
If requested in future, they must provide evidence of attending a post-secondary program before February 1, 2021.
Students who completed high school (or equivalency) in 2020 and claimed the CESB for May or June 2020 should have documents showing that, prior to the four-week CESB period for which they applied:
- they completed all requirements for high school graduation (they have finished their classes and their grades have been finalized); and
- they applied for admission into a post-secondary program that would start before February 1, 2021. If requested in future, they must provide evidence of attending a post-secondary program before February 1 2021.
Students who completed high school (or equivalency) in 2020 and claimed the CESB only for July and August should have documents showing that, prior to the four-week CESB period for which they applied:
they applied for admission into a post-secondary program that would start before February 1, 2021.
If requested in future, they must provide evidence that they completed all requirements for high school graduation in 2020 and attended a post-secondary program before February 1 2021.
Proof of disability
A student with a disability must attest to having an impairment, such as a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment, or a functional limitation—whether permanent or episodic in nature, or evident or not—that, in interaction with a barrier, hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.
Proof of having a disability could include:
- a note from a doctor or other regulated medical professional;
- proof of disability support from (i) the federal government or a provincial government or (ii) from an educational institution that you currently attend or have previously attended; or
- other documentation that provides clear evidence of the individual’s disability.
Proof of dependent
A student with a dependent must attest that they are supporting a dependent to receive the top-up amount. A student with a dependent is someone who has at least one child (including an adopted child, a stepchild or a foster child) under the age of 12, or a person with disability who is wholly dependent on them or their spouse/common-law partner.
Proof of having an eligible dependent could include:
- a birth certificate or adoption certificate for the dependent
- confirmation of other benefits such as the Canada Student Grant for Students with Dependents.
Proof of being unable to work
Proof of being unable to work could include:
- a note from a doctor or other regulated medical professional;
- a notarized letter confirming the reason they are unable to work as a result of COVID-19;
- proof of travel documents;
- emails or correspondence from a child’s care facility; or
- other documentation that provides clear evidence of the individual’s inability to work as a result of COVID‑19.
Students studying abroad and claiming to be “unable to work” may be required to provide additional documentation supporting their attestation, which could include:
- documents showing they are only allowed to work on campus;
- emails or letters to demonstrate their job search and intentions to work on campus; or
- a letter or email from the Canadian Embassy confirming that they will be repatriated at a later date.
A student who is able to work must be looking for a job on a regular basis (i.e. at least three days per week) and must document all of their job search efforts for the duration of the CESB period. Evidence of a student’s active job search includes:
- regular documentation of job-search results, including search dates, application dates, tools used, employer names and the type for work that they looking for. Job Bank provides useful tools to document job search efforts;
- emails to prospective employers and responses to employers who contacted them;
- emails or documentation of enrollment and communication efforts with an employment agency;
- screen shots or links to job postings or copies of job ads, flyers, postings, etc. within a student’s local area;
- confirmation of enrollment or participation in job search workshops or job fairs;
- emails or screen shots of job applications submitted for suitable jobs; and
- emails to demonstrate that they attended job interviews in person, over the phone or virtually.
Eligible students can receive $1,250 per month, plus an additional $750 per month if they have dependants or a disability, for a maximum of $2,000 per month. Students are only eligible to receive one top-up of $750 per month.
Students will receive a T4A slip that includes the CESB they received to use for filing their 2020 income tax returns.
Students and recent graduates can apply for the CESB through the Canada Revenue Agency’s My Account, and will need a Social Insurance Number to apply. Eligible Canadians are encouraged to choose the direct deposit payment option and ensure their contact information is up-to-date prior to applying to ensure a smooth and timely receipt of funds.
Eligible students must reapply for the CESB for each four-week period and must meet the eligibility criteria each time.
Since individuals can only receive this benefit during a four-week period, students cannot receive the CESB if they are receiving the CERB or Employment Insurance for any part of the same four-week period.
The CESB is available for four months from May 2020 to August 2020, but students will be able to retroactively apply for this benefit until September 30, 2020.
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