How to Apply for Emergency Student Benefits (CESB)

Posted: May 14, 2020
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On Friday, May 15th, applications for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) go live.

The CESB is a relief fund targeted at Canadian students who are without work and have fallen through the cracks of the Canada Emergency Relief Benefit (CERB) and Employment Insurance (EI). If you are a qualifying student, you can receive up to $2,000 per 4-week period in relief funding from the government until August 2020.

The CESB is for post-secondary students, recent post-secondary grads, AND high school graduates going into post-secondary. That's right, highschool graduates, the CESB is for you too!

In this post, we’ll explain what the CESB is and what it’s not, how to qualify, and quick steps to apply now.

What is the CESB?

In the government’s words, “The Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB) provides financial support to post-secondary students, and recent post-secondary and high school graduates who are unable to find work due to COVID-19.

Before we go any further, remember: if you are able to work, you must actively be looking for work or you will not be eligible to receive this funding.

There are two brackets of funding:

  1. $1,250 for each 4-week period, or
  2. $2,000 for each 4-week period, if you have dependants* or a disability*

*For specific details on what's considered a disability and who can be claimed as a dependent, see the Government of Canada's "Who Can Apply?" page.

The CESB services eligible students between the months of May and August. These four months are broken into four four-week terms. If you are eligible, you need to apply every four weeks to receive funding for that term.

Are you with me so far? Good. Here are the four terms. Mark your calendars!

  1. May 10 to June 6, 2020
  2. June 7 to July 4, 2020
  3. July 5 to August 1, 2020
  4. August 2 to August 29, 2020

Do you qualify for the CESB?

As of right now, the CESB is limited to Canadian citizens, "registered Indians"*, permanent residents, and protected persons studying in Canada or abroad. (Source: Government of Canada, "Who Can Apply?This means that international students, as of now, do not qualify for this relief funding and are encouraged to seek support from their local government. 

*This term is used specifically by the Government of Canada. This is not our chosen language. See linked source for reference.

Other primary application requirements

In addition, one of the following must be met in order to qualify:

  • you are unable to work due to COVID-19
  • you are looking for, but cannot find work due to COVID-19
  • you are currently working during the COVID-19 pandemic, but your income from employment and self-employment has been $1,000 or less (before taxes) during the 4-week period you are applying for

If you have made it this far, you have a good chance of qualifying! Woohoo! 

Next up: when can you qualify?

Post-secondary students and recent graduates

Post-secondary students can apply for all four eligibility periods. Again, these are:

  1. May 10 to June 6
  2. June 7 to July 4
  3. July 5 to August 1
  4. August 2 to August 29

Applications for the first period open Friday, May 15th! Head to your CRA My Account to get started, or keep reading for our application guide.

High school graduates

If you are a graduating high school student with a plan to attend post-secondary education, you also qualify for certain eligibility periods!

To qualify, you must have applied to a postsecondary program that starts before February 1st, 2021. After that, your eligibility depends on the date of your high school completion:

  • If you complete high school before June 7, 2020, your high school completion date must be before the start of the first eligibility period for which you are applying.
  • If you complete high school after June 7, 2020, you can only apply for 2 eligibility periods, starting from the third eligibility period, July 5 to August 1. 

Basically, June 7th is your date to watch. If you complete high school before June 7th, you fall into eligibility period 2. If you finish after that date, you have to wait until July 5th to apply.

Remember, you must have applied to a post-secondary program that starts before February 1st, 2021. Check out the over 20 programs Briercrest College offers that qualify you for this benefit!

See what a life-changing education at Briercrest College could do for you.
See what a life-changing education at Briercrest College could do for you.

For more details on which periods you can apply for, see the government of Canada’s info site.

How to Apply for the CESB

Alright! You’ve made it this far. If you qualify, you are ready to apply for the CESB! Follow these quick steps to apply now.

Before applying (do this ASAP!)

  • Confirm you are correctly registered with the CRA. Click here to fill out the "get ready to apply" checklist to find out if you are correctly registered.
  • Set up direct deposit or confirm that you wish to be mailed a cheque. (But know that direct deposit is substantially quicker for receiving funding!)

On or after Friday, May 15, 2020 at 6:00 AM EST

  • Faster: If applying online, head to the Canada Revenue Agency webpage and sign into your CRA My Account.
  • Slower: If applying over the phone, call the automated toll-free number 1.800.959.8281 or 1.800.959.2041. The hours of availability are Monday–Sunday from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm EST. If you choose this option, you will be asked to verify your identity via your SIN and postal code (as used on your tax return).

The CRA will verify that you are eligible. For complete details on eligibility and applying for the CESB and other government benefits, visit the official Government of Canada CESB webpage.

Remember, if you are able to work, you must actively be looking for work or you will not be eligible to receive this funding.

That’s Not All!

Let me say it again for those in the back: COVID-19 sucks. We all know it. 

Work is hard to come by, physical distancing is difficult for many (especially us extroverts), and there is a general sense of uncertainty in the air. However, even though there are downfalls, we should be excited to see the ways provision shows up. The CESB is just one of the many sources you can access to help pay for school. 

A few weeks back I wrote a blog called "9 Ways to Pay for Your First Year at College" to help new and current students find every source they can to pay for school. I’d love it if you checked it out!

In addition, our VP of Recruitment and Marketing, AJ Crocker, jumped on a live webinar to talk through the value of Christian higher education, and how you can afford it.

Whether you plan to come to Briercrest College or not, you will walk away with a ton of practical tips for making college affordable, and hopefully a reality for you. Click this link to watch it on-demand now!


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Getting the chance to come together with a small group of believers to intensively study the Word while doing activities that we all have a passion for is really cool!
From the National Survey of Student Engagement 2015