Higgs government cuts student employment insurance program

Higgs government cuts student employment insurance program

The county government has ended the NB-EI Connection program, which allowed full-time students to obtain employment insurance benefits while pursuing their studies, drawing youth anger.

Fredericton no longer offers the Connect NB-AE Regional Program. Created in 2016, it gives eligible EI claimants the option to maintain their benefits during post-secondary education.

No public announcement on the matter has been made by the county government, but several student organizations were notified Thursday morning via email. In its letter, the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labor justifies its decision by the fact that New Brunswick was the only province to offer such a program that would allow students to obtain benefits even if they were not available for full-time employment.

“This does not meet the eligibility criteria for employment insurance offered by the federal government, which is why the program will not be offered, effective immediately. The federal government has advised the province to comply with the federal program, and this measure will assist in doing so and align New Brunswick’s practices with those of other provinces” .

Another reason: labor shortage prevalent in all regions. “Given the province’s current labor market challenges, Connect NB-EI also ran counter to the province’s efforts to help employers fill job openings.”

The University of Moncton Center Student Union (FÉCUM) immediately went to the barricades, denouncing “not seeing the county government”.

“This reduction will reduce the accessibility and affordability of post-secondary education in New Brunswick,” worries its president, Jean-Sebastien Leger.

No reasonable alternative has been given to fill the gap left by the cancellation of this programme. Basically, students are told that they will just have to go into more debt, stop studying, work harder, or deprive themselves of essential possessions to survive. it is a pity “.

Mr. Leger notes that students at the University of Moncton already have to contend with a new 2% increase in tuition fees for 2022-2023, and accelerating inflation affecting food, gasoline and housing prices.

“Forcing students who are studying full-time to accept risky jobs, paying minimum wage, is not the answer,” he says. “It is the risk of getting worse outcomes or affecting his mental health.”

On Facebook, the post shared by the Student Union sparked hundreds of angry comments in no time.

We are taken by surprise

Noemi Noel, of Shepgan, was surprised by the news. The 18-year-old is about to begin his studies in veterinary technology at Oulton College in Moncton.

I’ve worked in a restaurant since March, planning to continue working 40 hours a week through August to be able to claim benefits from the start of the school year in September.

Here she is in an awkward position.

“This has put me under a lot of pressure, I’ve had to take out work insurance about 300 pieces a week,” she says. “I got help thanks to a student loan but how am I going to pay for an apartment, my car and food without work insurance? I will have no choice but to find myself a job on the weekend to pay for my survival!”

Noémie Noël is convinced that the government is only exacerbating staff shortages in some key sectors.

“Believable that you are solving the problem of understaffing in the local stores, you create another one later. The understaffing in hospitals, veterinary clinics and nursing homes is much greater.”

7000 students affected

About 7,000 students benefited from the program in 2021-2022. Genevieve Mallet, a spokeswoman for the department, acknowledges that it has not caused significant expenditures for the provincial government.

“In terms of the cost to the county, EI is a federal program. Therefore, the only regional costs relate to the administration of the program, which was implemented by the current employees of WorkingNB.

Keith Chiason, the liberal MNA at Tracadie-Sheila, also laments the financial impact of this cancellation on students and parents.

We want our youth to come out of school ready and able to contribute to the county’s economy. But with inflation and interest rates likely to rise over the next few years, our young people will be getting out of it with more debt and less buying power,” he argues.

Students who study from morning to night are not expected to fill the gap. To counter the shortage of skilled labour, let us do everything we can as a province to ensure that our young people continue their studies at the post-secondary level in order to obtain the qualifications needed to fill these jobs.

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