With summer jobs in short supply and federal relief programs in limbo, more Red Deer College students are turning to food banks and applying for emergency bursaries.
This coronavirus-afflicted spring is proving difficult for many young people who have finished the school year and run out of student loan money, with no summer jobs to transition to, said Brittany Lausen, president of the college’s student association.
The group gave out five times the number of student food bank hampers last month (36, compared to seven in April 2019), and also handed out $1,715 in food vouchers.
Lausen said demand for RDC’s emergency student bursary program was so great this spring, that college officials had to put $50,000 more into it.
“Students have finished the term, the dust has settled, and they are all waiting to get summer employment,” she said.
But given the economic shutdown to help slow the spread of COVID-19, “there isn’t tons (of work) out there, with recreation centres and summer camps closed,” and fewer postings on the college’s job board, said Lausen.
While some students were hired for the summer before the business shutdowns, and are now getting called to work at essential services, such as big-box stores, many others are not as lucky.
Lausen believes students who didn’t manage to line up summer jobs before the shutdowns, or who had lost the part-time jobs they had during the school year due to COVID-19 reduction measures, are in a tough economic spot.
Some hadn’t worked enough hours to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits, and are waiting for more information about the federal student relief programs recently announced.
No one yet knows when they will start accepting applications, or who qualifies.
“We haven’t heard anything new since April 22,” said Lausen.
One program is supposed to pay students for volunteering at non-profit agencies, and another is to provide an “emergency benefit” for students who can’t find work.
She knows many young people are eagerly waiting for the economy to reopen so they can apply for employment. Golf courses are now operating, so that should provide some prospects, she added.
But Lausen fears there won’t be the same variety, or number, of jobs that are usually available — or ones that provide full-time hours, rather than part-time or casual.
She noted many students depend on steady work for the entire summer to pay for their education and other expenses during the school year.