Federal government’s stimulus package includes changes to student loans and employment insurance

The federal government announced on March 18 that it will implement an interest-free moratorium on the repayment of Canada Student Loans for the next six months.

The changes were issued as part of emergency economic measures meant to support Canadians as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government will commit up to $27 billion in direct support to individuals and businesses and $55 billion through tax deferrals for a combined total of $82 billion — more than 3 per cent of Canada’s GDP, according to a government press release.

“As a first step, this plan aims to stabilize our economy through targeted measures to address immediate challenges faced by workers and businesses alike … Canadians should not make health decisions based on their financial needs,” reads the release.

Further measures include an increase to Canada Child Benefit payments, lowering the restrictions to apply for Employment Insurance (EI) and emergency benefits meant to support workers without access to paid sick leave or EI.

Students whose loans are currently in repayment will be afforded an interest-free grace period until September 30, according to the National Student Loans Service Centre.

Student leaders are applauding the decision.

“During a time where young people in Canada are vulnerable as holding work becomes precarious, they may be ineligible for Employment Insurance (EI), and must make payments for rent, food, and other necessities, actions like these make a difference,” wrote Undergraduates of Canadian Research-Intensive Universities (UCRU) Chair and current AMS VP External Cristina Ilnitchi in a press release.

The government has introduced measures to make it easier to apply for EI, such as eliminating the requirement to provide a medical certificate for people claiming sickness benefits.

The AMS has also released a step-by-step EI application guide on its website.

If you are sick or injured, were asked to self-quarantine by an employer or sent home due to a workplace closure, you may be eligible for EI. Eligible applicants can receive up to 55 per cent of their gross pay for a period of 15 weeks and up to a maximum of $573 per week.

Those who are ineligible for EI can expect to see support soon as the new federal measures roll out.

Parents affected by COVID-19 or those taking care of family members who are affected could qualify for up to $900 bi-weekly for 15 weeks. An Emergency Support Benefit delivered through the Canadian Revenue Agency will also provide up to $5 billion in support to workers who are ineligible for EI.