Canada announces cash for student crisis volunteers over summer break

The package will provide a monthly income for those unable to work usual jobs due to lockdown and closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic

Justin Trudeau, Canada's prime minister, pauses during a news conference outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Monday, April 20, 2020. Trudeau said that the death toll from the mass shooting in Nova Scotia last weekend has risen to 18, the National Post reported. Photographer: David Kawai/Bloomberg
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With May usually marking the start of the summer holidays for Canadian students, and crucially a time that many work to support themselves through the long school break, thousands in education are now or will shortly be struggling to make ends meet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday evening announced a 9 billion Canadian dollar (Dh23 billion) aid package to pay students a monthly salary if they volunteer to help with the crisis.

The government is effectively creating 116,000 jobs for students who will work in key areas struggling since the pandemic began or assisting on the frontlines. As well as this the government is creating an additional 76,000 jobs for young people.

"For a lot of students, the month of May normally marks the start of a summer job. But right now it might be really tough to find something. You may have been looking for weeks without any success," Mr Trudeau said. "Your energy and your skills can do a lot of good right now," he said.

Students “who choose to do national service and serve their communities", as the government briefing documents term it, will be eligible for 1,250 Canadian dollars a month between May and August.

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Those already in a job but earning less than 1,000 Canadian dollars a month will also be able to enrol. Those with disabilities or supporting a family member will be able to get up to 1,750 Canadian dollars.

Canada has urged people to stay home and announced a state of emergency having a massive impact on work and jobs. Although it has previously announced a number of measures to support people not being paid or laid off during the crisis, this is the first bill specifically aimed at students.

The government will also expand student grants and other measures to help and the new package will also be open those starting university in the Autumn as well as recent graduates who finished in December.

Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough told CBS news that the volunteering positions will be in assisting in key sectors hit by the pandemic.

"We're looking at agriculture, we're looking at food services, we're looking at the health sector, we're looking at community opportunities within community service organizations," she said. "The same kinds of jobs that you might find in a regular summer, but tweaked to address the reality that we don't have summer festivals, we don't have recreational summer camps for kids.”

Students groups welcomed the news with the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations and the Quebec Student Union saying the announcement will bring "significant relief" to those in education affected by the pandemic, CBS reported.