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The Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) and Distinctions-Based support for Indigenous Students


Previously, on April 22, The Prime Minister announced approximately $9 billion to support students and recent graduates via the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit as well as an increase of $75 million for existing distinctions-based support for Indigenous, Inuit and Métis students.

On Friday May 4, 2020 Bill C-15, the legislation necessary to enable the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit, was passed and received Royal Assent. While the legislation has passed, the application intake process (which will be through the CRA website) has not yet begun and is expected to open in mid-May.

On Wednesday May 13th, the government announced that the application process for the CESB would open on Friday May 15th and provided further details on eligibility and how to apply for the funding.

The distinctions-based funding for First Nations students will be likely be distributed through the existing channel which is to apply through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. More details should be available through your regional ISC office.

Key Points

  • The proposed Canada Emergency Student Benefit would provide support to students and new graduates who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). In the Prime Minister’s announcement on April 22, 2020, it was highlighted that this benefit would provide $1,250 per month for eligible students or $1,750 per month for eligible students with dependents or disabilities. 

  • When the legislation was passed, it clarified that eligible students with a disability or dependents would receive $750 in addition to the $1,250 per month.  This means that the benefit received by students with a disability or dependents will now equal $2,000.

  • The benefit will be available from May to August 2020. Students can earn up to $1000 a month from other sources and still be eligible for the benefit.

  • The new Canada Student Service Grant will support students who volunteer during the COVID 19 pandemic. For students who choose to do national service and serve their communities, the grant will provide between $1000 and $5,000 depending on their hours. 

  • As currently announced, these benefits are stackable in that students would be eligible to receive both the CESB and the Canada Student Service Grant provided they meet the conditions for both. 

Other Financial Supports Measures for Students

  • The Government is also expanding existing federal employment, skills development, and youth programming to create up to 116,000 jobs, placements, and other training opportunities.

  • The government will also double the Canada Student Grants for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21. The Canada Student Grants for Students with Permanent Disabilities and Students with Dependents would also be doubled.

  • The government will broaden eligibility for student financial assistance by removing the expected student’s and spouse’s contributions in 2020-21, in recognition that many students and families will struggle to save for school this year.

  • The government is enhancing the Canada Student Loans Program by raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350.

  • The government is increasing existing distinctions-based support for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation students pursuing post-secondary education by providing an additional $75.2 million in 2020-21.

  • The government is extending expiring federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships, and supplementing existing federal research grants, to support students and post-doctoral fellows, by providing $291.6 million to the federal granting councils. In addition, the government intends to enhance work opportunities for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows through the National Research Council of Canada.

Full Release:

Update for Students with a Disability or Dependents:

How to Apply

The distinctions-based funding for First Nations students will be likely be distributed through the existing channel which is to apply through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program. More details should be available through your regional ISC office.

UPDATE May 13: Applications for the Canadian Student Emergency Benefit (CESB) will open on Friday May 15th through the CRA’s My Account. Applicants will need a Social Insurance Number in order to apply. No other documents will be required at the time of application though students will have to attest their eligibility. It is also possible that documentation could be required in the future as part of the normal audit process.

Some eligibility highlights are listed below but there are a number of rules and requirements which should be read in full and can be found here:


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. 

When applying, students must attest that for COVID-19 related reasons, 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.

You can not apply for the CESB if you are receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) or Employment Insurance benefits for the same four-week period as their current application.

Three categories of students are eligible for the CESB:

  1. Students enrolled in a post-secondary education program

  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 educational program that begins before February 1, 2021

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