Federal government actions to support graduate students

Monday, May 4, 2020

Update May 6, 2020: GSPA will advise tri-agency scholarship recipients and departments of the potential impact to their scholarship once details are received from the agencies. Thank you for your patience.

On Friday, May 1,  the following email was sent to the graduate student community:


To: Graduate students

Cc: Faculty Associate Deans, Graduate Studies, Faculty Administrative Assistants, Graduate Studies, Faculty Recruitment Co-ordinators, Department/program Graduate Co-ordinators, Department/program Graduate Officers/Associate Chairs, The Centre staff, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs staff

From: Jeffrey Casello, Associate-Vice President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (GSPA)

Subject: Federal government actions to support graduate students

Note: This email is for information and action (as appropriate)


As the University and broader communities continue to manage the COVID-19 situation, we remain committed to supporting your well-being.  To this end, Co-operative and Experiential Education, Government Relations, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs and the Office of Research have compiled the following list of potential sources of financial support for you, Waterloo’s graduate students.

Relevant programs:

If questions arise about these programs, please feel free to contact those identified below.  As always, questions about your specific situation can be directed to your program’s graduate officer or graduate co-ordinator.

·         Mitacs - the Mitacs program aims to support student researchers with eligible external partners that wish to engage in research of common interest and value.  The government has:

o   streamlined the approval process for COVID-19 related projects;

o   reduced the contribution for small to medium enterprises looking to respond to COVID-19 ($3750 instead of $7500);

o   announced an additional $40 million in support to the program (in any areas of research) to create 5000 new placements.

If you or your supervisors have external partners with whom research is being conducted, you are strongly encouraged to explore the Mitacs program as a source of student/research funding.

     Contact: Patti Ford, Julia Carvalho or Ashley Hannon

·         Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

In order to be eligible for the CERB program, you must:

o   have earned at least $5000 in the last 12 months; and

o   have been employed and have had your employment discontinued due to COVID-19; or

o   have had an employment opportunity for spring 2020 that was rescinded because of COVID-19.

Recipients can earn up to $1000 per month (before taxes).  International students are eligible for the CERB. The CERB may be applicable to you if you enrolled in co-op programs but your spring co-op opportunity has been rescinded.

Contact: review the Government of Canada website for details on how to apply.

·         Research Support for Graduate Students funded by the Tri-Agency

The federal government has committed $291.6 million to the granting councils to extend expiring (March-August 2020) federal graduate research scholarships and postdoctoral fellowships.  This program will result in:

o   an automatic, one-semester extension for expiring awards held by students;

o   an extension of granting council awards grants and scholarships that end between March and August by one semester;

o   an extension of all council research grants held by (faculty) researchers. 

o  The value of the extension is based on what will be spent on student and other research support staff while research is not taking place.  The purpose is to ensure that these researchers continue to receive financial support despite the research interruptions.

o   the allocation of $7.5 million to NRC graduate research internship program to hire 143 graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. 

Note that these Federal programs cannot be combined with other income supports;

·         Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)

(Note: this program has not yet been approved by the Government – updates will follow as they become available)

In order to be eligible for the CESB program, students must:

o   be Canadian citizens or permanent residents;

o   have been enrolled as of December 2019 or be committed to being enrolled for September 2020.  Recent graduates and incoming students are eligible for the program.

o   be actively seeking employment but are unable to work due to COVID-19; and

o   be residents of Canada over the summer.

Recipients can earn up to $1250/month (+$750 with a dependent or disability) from May to August 2020. In order to be eligible for the CESB program, students must demonstrate that they are actively seeking employment.

If a student has an offer from the University to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA), declining that offer to participate in the CESB program is inconsistent with the program’s objectives.  The University’s position is that students should NOT decline TAships in order to receive support from the CESB program.

The program has a low threshold of entry – meaning the government is likely to approve applications quickly and without much scrutiny to ensure that financial support is available immediately to those in need.  However, the Government has indicated that after the fact, there will be a very thorough review, with high standards.  If, at that time, it is discovered that students had opportunities to work but elected to take the CESB, the Government will seek repayment in the 2021 tax season.

The University of Waterloo continues to administer emergency funds to domestic and international students – details can be found on GSPA’s financial needs website.  Additional funding mechanisms internal to the University are also under development – as these become available, we will send additional communications.

On behalf of the University of Waterloo, please know that we are here to support you. If you have any questions about funding, I encourage you to contact your graduate officer or graduate co-ordinator, or send me an email.  Thank you!

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