CESB requires no employment proof upfront, excludes internationals: Employment minister

With the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) application open this morning, Canada’s employment minister said there are no penalties for students who apply “in good faith” — even if they end up not qualifying.

“I know Canadians too well,” said Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough. “At the end of the day, most people are genuinely honest.”

Notably, international students are excluded from the benefit.

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) application is part of a federal $9 billion student aid package announced in April, intended to fill in gaps for post-secondary students ineligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

“Students should not be worried,” said Qualtrough. “This is an attestation-based process that starts tomorrow, just like the CERB.”

Accepting attestations means that “there’s no proof required” for records of employment or job searching, she said.

While the government will perform checks upon application, such as flagging duplicate social insurance numbers (SINs) or SINs of those under 15, more thorough verification will occur later on to ensure students receive the benefit as soon as possible. The minister’s press secretary said that the CRA can request follow-up documentation if there are any suspicions.

Students will have to repay the benefit if they’re not eligible. Even if the government discovers a mistake, there will be no penalties or interest on repayment of the benefit.

“We’re not trying to mess with people on this. We really want as many people to get it as possible,” said Qualtrough.

International students excluded

International students aren’t eligible for the CESB — and if they don’t qualify for the CERB, they’re out of luck for federal income supplements.

The minister said that CESB eligibility criteria, such as Canadian citizenship or permanent residency, is in line with other federal student aid policies like student loans and grants.

For income, internationals can apply for work opportunities during the pandemic, something Qualtrough said that the government made easier by lifting the 20-hour-per-week restriction on international students in essential services, as well as by increasing job opportunities for students wishing to work during the pandemic.

“I hear that that’s not a terribly satisfying answer … but the reality is, we really had to figure out the kind of policy parameters of this,” said Qualtrough.

“We’re trying to do all we can for Canadian students and that’s right now where our policy direction is.”

This article has been updated to clarify that the CRA can ask for follow-up documentation from applicants.