March 26, 2020
Dear PSE Coordinators,
I hope that this email finds you safe and healthy. We realize that most First Nations have now closed their band offices and that post-secondary education may not be your most urgent priority at this time. However, we wanted to provide you with some information that may be helpful for you during these times. We have included updates on the PSE Coordinator Resource Line, living allowances during COVID-19 closures, and emergency assistance for students.
PSE Coordinator Resource Line
As you may already be aware, in response to the continued COVID-19 pandemic in British Columbia and based on the guidance of public health officials, the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) has made a number of changes to our operations that will be in effect until further notice, including the closure of our office.
During this time, our Post-Secondary Education and Training (PSE) Department will be working remotely and the PSE Resource Line will continue to be available with no interruption of service.
For any support you require or queries you may have related to the administration of the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) and University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP), please contact the PSE Resource Line by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 236-334-6146.
PSSSP/UCEPP Living Allowances
As First Nations have decision-making authority on funding provided to them under various federal programs, including the PSSSP and UCEPP, Indigenous Services Canada has confirmed that First Nations can determine whether or not to provide living allowances to students during the suspension of classes. Living expenses can continue to be paid under PSSSP and UCEPP for most students not currently attending classes due to class suspensions, in so far as they have not officially withdrawn from the post-secondary institution they are attending. Below are some considerations you may want to take into account in making that decision:
· If the student is currently living outside your community in order to attend school and continues to live outside your community in anticipation of a potential return to classes or is participating in online classes, you may wish to continue paying a living allowance to support them until more is known.
· If the student has returned to your community as the post-secondary institution has decided to suspend in-person classes indefinitely in favour of online classes, you may wish to continue paying a living allowance to support them until more is known.
· If the student has returned to community as the post-secondary institution suspended in-person classes indefinitely and is not providing online delivery, you may determine that income assistance is a more appropriate source of support and refer them to your community’s Social Development Worker.
· You may want to consider ongoing financial obligations that students may have at their place of study even if they have returned home, such as rent.
Emergency Assistance Funding
In response to concerns raised from First Nations on the financial impact that the suspension of classes may have on students, FNESC has requested information from the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training on supports available to students who are experiencing financial difficulty as a result of COVID-19 (for example, due to unemployment or underemployment). The Ministry has confirmed that all post-secondary institutions have emergency bursary funding available, and you may consider referring your students to their institution’s Financial Aid Office and/or Indigenous Affairs Office as financial assistance may be available through both channels.