Relief is on the way for Indigenous post-secondary students experiencing financial pressures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The provincial government is giving an additional $1.5 million to supplement the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund, which helps Indigenous students who are experiencing an unexpected financial emergency that may affect their ability to finish school.
“Our government is increasing emergency financial assistance for Indigenous students to ensure they have the necessary funds to focus on staying healthy, meeting their educational goals and finishing their semester,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.
“By supporting Indigenous students to succeed, we are doing our part to implement article 23 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.”
Support is available through all 25 public post-secondary institutions in B.C., as well as Native Education College.
Indigenous learners will receive funding for emergency living expenses like groceries, cell phone bills and childcare, as well as help for other unanticipated expenses such as medical, dental or travel costs for family crises or community obligations.
“These additional emergency funds to support B.C.’s Indigenous students are vital right now,” said Scott Fraser, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “No one should have to choose between education and survival, and these emergency funds will help Indigenous students complete their studies with a better sense of well-being.”
Students do not have to repay any of the financial aid they receive from this fund.
Indigenous students can contact the Indigenous Student Service Centre on campus, which will help with the application process to receive financial assistance.
Since 2017, $1.1 million has been provided to the Indigenous Emergency Assistance Fund, giving support to more than 3,700 Indigenous students in the past three years.
It launched in 2012 after research showed that having access to emergency relief funds was incredibly important to the success of many Indigenous learners,.
The federal government has also announced $305 million for a new distinctions-based Indigenous Community Support Fund to address immediate needs in First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation communities across Canada.
This announcement follows the $3.5 million boost from the province on Thursday to help all post-secondary students facing emergency financial hardship due to COVID-19.