Resources for students during these uncertain times
As the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the economy dropped, and case numbers rose across the country and here at UVic, the university made the unprecedented move to cancel classes for the rest of the semester.
A lot of students are dealing with increased financial and social pressures — some students have lost their jobs and others have had to rapidly move out of Victoria. While we navigate this new socially-distant normal as a university community, there are a few resources that can help students get their lives back together during these uncertain times.
UVic’s response to COVID-19
On March 13, UVic suspended all face-to-face instruction and cancelled all in-person exams for the remainder of the semester. UVic left it up to instructors to decide what method of pedagogy would be best for their course. All students were expected to receive an update on how their course will progress before today. Summer courses will also be online.
UVic has now moved to offer alternative grading options. After receiving their final grade, students can choose between keeping their grade, opting for a pass/fail note that will not affect their GPA, or withdrawing from the course without penalty. UVic is still figuring out how they will administer this.
Students living in residence can now move out early with a partial refund or apply to extend their stay until April 24.
Most food outlets on campus have been closed, leaving only Mystic Market and the Cadboro Commons kitchen available for food options after 4 p.m.
The SUB is closed, effective immediately. All employees will be temporarily let go as a result of the closure. UVic libraries will be closed from March 19 until April 10. CARSA is also closed at this time, along with all other UVic recreation programs, services, and facilities.
The university is no longer offering in-person services for a lot of their student supports, like academic advising and counselling. These services will continue online.
All university-sponsored international travel is cancelled until the end of May. Any students planning to go on university-sponsored outbound international travel between now and the end of May will have their plans cancelled. This includes exchanges, co-ops, and conferences.
Any trips by faculty or students that are not university-sponsored will not be affected. However, the university and Centre for Disease Control advises against all travel outside of the country at this time.
What to do if you get sick and believe you may have COVID-19
The symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, cough, muscle aches, and difficulty breathing. If you have any of those, even if they are very mild, CDC recommends that you stay home and self-isolate. Most young people can recover at home, with rest.
Testing for COVID-19 in B.C. is limited based on need, and because of that you may not be eligible to get tested. A new online self-assessment tool can determine whether or not you need to get tested, and there is a number to call for COVID-19: 1-888-268-4319 (1-888-COVID19).
Obviously, if you need immediate emergency help, call 9-1-1.
If you’re a Canadian citizen abroad, get home
The federal government is urgently asking Canadian citizens abroad to get on the next commercial flight home so they can have access to Canadian health care, should they fall sick. With more countries closing their borders entirely, like the European Union and Australia, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find available flights.
The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) continues to remind everyone coming into Canada from an international destination to self-isolate for 14 days following their arrival. They have a list of every domestic and international flight where a passenger has tested positive for COVID-19. WestJet regularly updates their site with a list of those flights.
Global Affairs Canada has set up an emergency loan program, where citizens returning to Canada are eligible for up to $5 000 to help with additional costs of getting home.
Federal student loans moratorium for until September 30
As of March 30, the federal government will pause collecting Canada Student Loan repayments and loans will not incur interest. This will remain in effect until September 30.
B.C. student loans no longer incur interest and there is a six-month moratorium on provincial loans as well. Students from other provinces should check with their respective provincial student loan agency, as this policy could vary.
Financial supports for those impacted by COVID-19
Those who qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) can receive sickness benefits without needing to wait a week or recieve a doctor’s note.
In addition to EI, the government recently announced another program — the Coronavirus Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). CERB will provide $2,000 a month, paid bi-weekly ($500 a week) for up to four months.
If people made $5 000 in 2019 or in the last twelve months, and can prove that their income was impacted by COVID-19, they should qualify. This includes students that can’t find summer jobs, as long as they have hit that marker of $5 000 in income and have been out of work for 14 consecutive days in a four-week period. People will also qualify for CERB if they are sick, taking care of someone who is sick, or taking care of a child.
Anyone on EI will continue to receive it, and people that have applied for EI that qualify for CERB will automatically have their applications transferred.
Trudeau has said the application for CERB will be open on April 6 and money should come in for April 16 for the earliest applicants. The Prime Minister has also advised Canadians to sign up on the CRA website under the “My Accounts” page and turn on the direct deposit feature to get the money faster.
If people are working but working less, they can still receive CERB or EI but will have to claim and deduct their wages. In an effort to avoid massive layoffs, Trudeau is covering the costs of 75 per cent of wages for qualifying small of medium businesses that keep their employees working, backdated to March 15.
Paying rent while financially insecure
B.C. has recently announced a few measures to assist renters, including a rent freeze and a moratorium on evictions.
They also announced a $500 rental rebate to help people that can’t afford to pay their rent. This will be administered through B.C. Housing and the money will go directly to landlords. An application will be available online in April.
If you’re unable to pay your bill, BC Hydro can offer assistance. Their COVID-19 Customer Assistance program allows customers to defer payments with no penalty by calling 1-800-BCHYDRO (1 800 224-9376). Their Customer Crisis Fund provides up to $600 in grants to pay bills.
A lot of businesses are still open and practicing social distancing with delivery services.
B.C. Transit has approved free transit in Victoria and Nanaimo, and are encouraging people to use the back entrances to protect transit operators.
If you’re able to, help others
Many people in Victoria have set up groups or informal neighbourhood supports for those self-isolating or otherwise affected by COVID-19. One group, called “COVID-19 Coming Together”, has over 7 000 members.
Blood Services Canada is requesting immediate blood donations, as they anticipate a shortage due to COVID-19. Find more information about donating blood here.
The best way you can help others is to practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible. Although you may not show symptoms, you could still be carrying the disease. Especially in a city with a high population of senior citizens, it’s imperative that we all take small actions together to reduce the strain on our healthcare system and flatten the curve.