TORONTO -- Not all out-of-work Canadians qualify for the new Canadian Emergency Response Benefit, and post-secondary students appear to be disproportionately likely to fall through the cracks of this new addition to Canada's social safety net.
To be eligible to receive the benefit, applicants must have earned at least $5,000 in the past 12 months or in 2019 as a whole, and must be out of work for reasons directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While many Canadians who have lost their jobs in the last few weeks easily meet both criteria, that's not necessarily the case for college and university students.
Some work only casual, part-time jobs that pay less than $5,000 over the course of a year. Others only work during summer, when classes are out – meaning they haven't lost their job due to the pandemic, but it will be difficult for them to find work in a largely locked-down country once their summer begins.
Some schools have already moved toward offering financial assistance to students who are otherwise at risk of dropping out. Prime Minster Justin Trudeau suggested Sunday that some sort of government support will be made available as well.
"We know that we need to do more for young people as they come out of university and look for projects and ways of securing income this summer,"
he said at a press briefing outside his home, where he remains in self-isolation.
"This is an issue that we are very, very aware of."
Trudeau said the government "should have more to say in the coming days" about how it will help students and suggested that its aid could take the form of direct financial support or changes to the Canada Summer Jobs program, which helps Canadians between the ages of 15 and 30 find seasonal work.
The prime minister also suggested that students might want to consider spending their summer working on a farm or in a fishery.
Asked about the challenges of bringing temporary foreign workers into the country to work in the agricultural industry and keeping the virus from spreading in their workplaces, Trudeau noted that migrant workers are subject to quarantine upon entering the country and have a long-standing role in the sector.
"At the same time, we see many, many Canadians who are out of work [and] wanting to help out – students who are looking at opportunities for summer jobs that they might not otherwise have,"
"We know there are many people interested in helping out in terms of feeding the country."
Trudeau says the government would also make announcements "in the coming days and weeks" about specific support for fishers and agricultural producers.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Thursday, April 2, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS / Sean Kilpatrick)