UVSS funding electronic gift card initiative

Campus News

Cards to be distributed through tiered system, as UVSS also donates money to UVic’s COVID-19 Emergency Bursary

File photo by Belle White

The University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS) has budgeted $10 000 to fund an electronic grocery store gift card initiative to help students financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in co-operation with Walmart. The gift cards will be distributed through a tiered system, going first to UVSS staff and international students. 

The news comes after the UVSS closed the SUB and temporarily laid off both salary and part-time student employees last month. The money will be coming from the student society’s Events Fund. 

“We saw that students were struggling more than ever. As their student society we have a duty to do all that we can to make the lives of UVic students better. We thought that helping students make ends meet was the best thing we could do for them in this moment,” said Jonathan Granirer, Director of Outreach and University Relations, in an email interview with the Martlet. 

Along with the $10 000 from the Events Fund that would be poured into the gift card initiative, the UVSS board passed a motion in an April 6 board meeting that would see the student society donate up to another $10 000 from various accounts to UVic’s COVID-19 Emergency Bursary fund. 

Efe Türker, Director of International Student Relations, led the motion and said the plan is intended to help out students financially during the pandemic. 

“Having the pandemic get us to close down a lot of events, we ended up having a bunch of money left over … and we wanted to be sure that we put this money back in the pockets of students during this challenging time,” he said. 

Kai Richins, Director of Events, who is also leading the project, said in the board meeting that he has considered these extraordinary circumstances an event and echoed Türker’s message of helping students that have been impacted by the pandemic. 

While Richins said the UVSS and members of the Executive Committee were looking at retailers like Save-On-Foods to partner with, Save-On couldn’t distribute gift cards electronically so the student society had to look elsewhere — and eventually to Walmart. 

Richins, in a separate email interview with the Martlet, and Granirer both said that the company could provide the UVSS with a large amount of electronic gift cards — as the student society cannot distribute physical copies. 

“We did not want to support Walmart but they seem to be the only company that will provide us with a large amount of electronic gift cards — we are unable to give out physical copies of gift cards. The exact amount of the gift card depends how many student employees apply,” said Granirer. 

Also through email, Richins said students would be able to apply for the gift cards through a survey, and that the gift cards will be distributed through a tiered system — first to student staff, then to international students who will not be able to receive provincial or federal aid, and then to the remainder of the student body. He also said the cards will have $50 on them, but could have more if the recipient has dependents. 

“This is a program for the UVic student body, and will be distributed in a tiered fashion. Should there be funds left over after the most vulnerable are served, it will be opened up to the entire population,” said Richins. 

While the entire student body may not be able to access this fund, Granirer said all UVic students will be able to access the UVSS’s donations through the university’s COVID-19 Emergency Bursary. 

“All UVic students will be able to access the COVID-19 bursary fund that we are donating to, including international students.”