What is Canada's Emergency Student Benefit? (CESB VS CERB)

By Remitbee - May 12, 2020

CESB Benefit covers students who don’t qualify for CERB

Canada has responded to the coronavirus with a fast and unified front, calling all citizens to stay home to help flatten the curve. While there have been a few conflicts over the government’s spending and taxing abilities, people have generally worked quickly to get desperately needed relief funds to individuals and businesses across the country. Last week we gave you information about CERB (Canada’s Emergency Response Benefit). This week we are going to take a look at CESB (Canada’s Emergency Student Benefit) and talk through who is eligible and what the benefit entails.

While normal unemployment benefits and [CERB] (https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html) were both created to help people who have lost their jobs or independent contracting income, many students and recent graduates don’t fall under either category. The COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for many who are very early in their career or were just about to start their career after graduating in May or June. This is why the government created CESB as part of their COVID-19 Emergency Response Plan. It will hopefully help students get through the crisis and enable their careers to recover quickly once things start to reopen.

What are the CESB Benefits and who is eligible?

CESB benefits provide $1,250 each month for students who are eligible from May through August 2020, and $1,750 per month for students with permanent disabilities or who have dependents. Financial support is also available to post-secondary students who cannot secure jobs over the summer because of the pandemic. In total, $9 billion dollars has been set aside for the CESB benefit.

This program is meant to cover students who do not qualify for CERB or EI and are not able to go to work during the global pandemic. There are three criteria that people can qualify under.

  • Students who are starting post-secondary education in September 2020.
  • Post-secondary students currently enrolled in school.
  • Students who recently graduated from a college or university (winter 2019) and can’t secure work due to the crisis.

All students who apply must be permanent residents or Canadian citizens so international students do not qualify at this time. Students who do receive the benefit can continue to receive it for the four-month period even if they have worked as long as they don’t make more than $1,000 per month while on the program. While the government has not stated if the income will be taxable or not, it is likely that it will be just like the CERB is.

How to Apply

The current information that has been released by the government instructs students to apply for the benefit via their CRA My Account page. Applications open on Friday, May 15th. Payments will be sent to students via cheque or direct deposit from the Canada Revenue Agency.


CERB and CESB are meant to cover different groups, with CERB providing $2,000 per month to workers and independent contractors who have lost employment because of COVID-19. While some students will qualify for the larger benefit, many will not. As mentioned above, international students are not eligible for CESB, but many will meet the eligibility requirements for CERB and can apply for the higher benefit. To help offset financial hardship, the government has also temporarily lifted the 20-hour rule that limits the number of hours that international students are allowed to work while in Canada for school during the pandemic, allowing them to take more hours in essential services like food service industry and healthcare.

Here are some of the differences in eligibility between the two programs:


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