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MPs meet in House to debate emergency COVID-19 aid for students,CBC News,on April 29, 2020 at 1:52 pm
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MPs meet in House to debate emergency COVID-19 aid for students,CBC News,on April 29, 2020 at 1:52 pm

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau updates Canadians on the latest measures the federal government is taking to slow the spread of COVID-19

A small group of MPs will meet in person in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday to debate legislation that would provide $9 billion in financial aid to post-secondary students taking a financial hit because of the global pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the suite of benefits last week in response to criticism that too many young people were left out from other COVID-19 support programs. He will speak about the benefits for students at his daily briefing beginning at 11 a.m. ET and is carrying it live.

Under the proposed new measures, students would be eligible for $1,250 a month from May through August. That sum can go up to $1,750 if the student is caring for a dependent or has a disability.

The benefit is available also to students who have jobs but are making less than $1,000 a month.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said the government’s bill for student supports is “long and complex” and that he needs clarity before determining if he will support it.

He said he wants a motion that says students should have a basic income support, but there should also be built-in incentives to encourage them to work. The underlying principle for the program should be that the more students work, the more money they make, he said.

Blanchet said constructing a program that is too generous without such incentives to work would not be helpful to those sectors that need labour.

“Students will do the math.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh repeated his call for a universal support benefit that would help everyone who needs it. If someone gets money they don’t need, it can be fixed at tax time, he said.

He said it’s “unjust” that a student who is a mother is eligible for less than someone who could get $2,000 a month through the Canada emergency response benefit (CERB.)

“We hope the government will see the error of its ways,” he said

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The Conservatives are pushing for changes to the bill to include incentives for students to work in essential fields, creating a new program to match students and youth employees with jobs in the agriculture and agri-food sector, including fish and seafood.

The government also announced a special grant program that will give students who volunteer over the summer a stipend of $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the hours they work.

The House of Commons is formally adjourned until May 25, but a special committee, which includes all 338 MPs, is holding virtual and in-person meetings during the pandemic.

The Wednesday in-person meetings will include a scaled-down number of MPs in order to follow physical distancing guidelines.

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