Feds Offering Students $1k for Every 100 Hours of COVID-19 Volunteer Work

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered new details on the now-launched Canada Student Service Grant program. The grant to post-secondary students and recent graduates would provide one-time payments of up to $5,000 for volunteering in pandemic-related programs, depending on the number of hours worked. For every 100 hours spent, a student will receive $1,000. 

The Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger said the grant can be used for any expenses. The government estimates “tens of thousands” of placements to be available. Chagger said the opportunities include helping kids learn to code and youth mentorship programs. 

Who Qualifies?

  • Participants must be 30 years of age or younger.
  • A Canadian citizen, a permanent resident or a student with a refugee status.
  • And must be either: enrolled in and attending a college or university during the spring, summer, or fall 2020 semesters; a post-secondary graduate no earlier than December 2019; or studying abroad but currently residing in Canada.

Interested volunteers must register by August 21 at the latest, and completed applications for the grant have to be submitted no later than November 6. Participants are only able to count hours volunteered between June 25 and October 31 of this year. 

“Students are facing unique challenges this summer due to the pandemic. At the same time, many are wondering how they can help in the fight against COVID-19,” Trudeau said during his Rideau Cottage address on June 25. The government is directing those interested to a new “I want to help” information portal where they can connect with COVID-19 focused charities that could use their help. Through this webpage, Canaian not-for-profit organizations can submit volunteer opportunities. 

The Canada Emergency Student Benefit program launched in early May. As of June 18, 578,850 students or recent graduates have received a total of $1.2 billion in funding through the program, which offers $1,250 a month from May to August for most applicants, and up to $2,000 a month for students with dependents or with disabilities. 

New Details on Job Funding

In addition to opening up the volunteer program, Trudeau also detailed how aspects of the previously promised student spending will be allocated, and where new job opportunities for students will be created. This includes a promise to create 10,000 new job placements under the Canada Summer Jobs program, at a cost of $60 million.

During a press conference following Trudeau’s remarks, Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough said that the 10,000 jobs are on top of the 70,000 already created, because the program has been “oversubscribed.” That program has already been temporarily enhanced to allow employers who hire Canadians between the ages of 15 and 30 to apply for a subsidy of up to 100% of the provincial or territorial hourly minimum wage.

As part of the $9 billion package Trudeau also said the government would:

  • Double the Canada Student Grants for all eligible full-time students to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students in 2020-21;
  • Offer $291.6 million to extend scholarships, fellowships, and grants for three or four months to keep research projects and placements going, including for postdoctoral fellowships; and
  • Broaden eligibility for financial assistance and raising the maximum weekly amount that can be provided to a student in 2020-21 from $210 to $350.

On June 25, the prime minister offered more details on some of the pre-announced measures, including spending:

  • $40 million to create 5,000 internships for post-secondary students with the innovation-focused NGO Mitacs to offer placements in sectors such as medicine and law;
  • $266 million to create 20,000 job placements for post-secondary students in high-demand sectors through the Student Work Placement Program; 
  • $40 million on a wage subsidy that connects youth with small businesses and charities through the Digital Skills for Youth and the Computer for Schools Plus programs; 
  • and $187 million to support job placements through the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy in high-demand sectors. 

“If we want to build a strong and resilient economy, we have to invest in the next generation. We have to make sure our young people have the right tools to work, innovate, and succeed in the economy of the future,” said the prime minister.

Canada Student Service Grant 

Source: CTV News

CRA Tip Line Flooded With 3,300 Leads on Suspected Emergency Aid Cheats

Canada’s tax agency has received more than 3,300 tips on suspected abuse of emergency aid programs designed to help the people and businesses taking a financial hit during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of tips about possible fraud involving the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB), the wage subsidy program and student COVID-19 aid is growing fast.  As of May 31, the Canada Revenue Agency had received 600 tips; just over a week later, that number had swelled to 1,300.

Canadians already have made 361,000 repayments for CERB aid they weren’t eligible for. That’s up from 190,000 as of June 3. CRA said repayments were made in cases where applicants received a double payment for the same period, were not actually eligible for the benefit or returned to work earlier than expected. CRA spokesman Christopher Doody said that in cases where claimants are found to be ineligible, they’re contacted by the CRA to make arrangements to repay — but to date all the repayments have been voluntary. CRA said it carries out pre-payment verifications and post-payment reviews for COVID-19 benefits.

When the CRA receives a tip about abuse, it takes steps to identity the suspected cheat and review the case to determine if cheating occurred, according to the agency’s website. If verified, it will then take “appropriate action” to address the specific type of cheating. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and some federal ministers have said the government will not go after those who made honest mistakes when filing for emergency benefits, but they’ve vowed to crack down on those caught deliberately defrauding the system.

Bill Outlining Penalties Doesn’t Pass

The government had proposed legislation that would have imposed stiff penalties for deliberate CERB fraud, including fines and jail time. After a backlash that saw the government accused of trying to scare people even more during a global pandemic, the bill failed to pass a Commons vote earlier this month.

People who report suspected benefit abuse are guaranteed privacy and anonymity, and are not asked to disclose their own personal information. They are asked to provide as many details as possible about the suspected cheat and the reasons for making the allegation. CRA does not give cash rewards for information about suspected cheating.

Conservative MP and employment critic Dan Albas said many Canadians were confused about the eligibility rules for CERB and weren’t sure if they qualified for it or not. He also suggested some people are deliberately abusing the system.

“For months, Justin Trudeau has failed to take the issue of CERB fraud seriously. Instead of listening and fixing the gaps in existing programs, the Trudeau Liberals are giving hundreds of millions of dollars to fraudsters. This is wrong. Conservatives will continue to make sure taxpayers are respected while ensuring support gets to Canadians who need it,” he said in a statement.

No Numbers Released on Fraud

CRA would not say how many claims have been found to be fraudulent. “The Canada Revenue Agency does track the number of fraudulent CERB claims, but to protect the integrity of our processes, these specific statistics are not available at this time,” it said in a statement to CBC.

NDP employment critic Daniel Blaikie said the numbers show that most people are not misusing CERB. “Instead of scaring honest people, Liberals must make sure they receive the help they need. Millions of Canadians who cannot get work because of the economic consequences of the ongoing pandemic need help,” he said.

“We know that fraud is already illegal. But these numbers show that the overwhelming majority of Canadians are accessing CERB in good faith and voluntarily repaying money that they received but we’re not eligible for.”

Source: CBC