Coronavirus and income issues (updated June 18)

TREY has made an announcement about changes to studies and student activities here. Our Frequently Asked Questions on coronavirus is under this link. You can find up-to-date information about the University policies regarding coronavirus here.

This page contains a collection of information regarding income issues and exceptional social aid related policies during the corona outbreak. At the end of the page, you can also find a collection of sources of food aid, or so-called food banks, which operate in the Tampere area.

Please note that this page is not updated during the summer 2020. Temporary changes to legislation will become outdated as prescribed. To check the current situation regarding how the corona situation affects social security, please visit Kela’s webpage at https://www.kela.fi/web/en/corona. Answers to frequently asked questions can be viewed at https://www.kela.fi/web/en/corona-frequently-asked-questions.


General information regarding students’ financial aid

The financial aid for students may be more flexible due to problems caused by coronavirus, just as with other illnesses or difficult situations. If studying has not been possible, the payment of financial aid may be continued even if you have not made satisfactory progress with your studies. The maximum period of eligibility for financial aid may also be extended.

The target time for student loan compensation can’t be extended due to coronavirus within the framework of current legislation. We will update this site to reflect all possible future changes. A temporary law reform is currently in the works.

If you have been forced to terminate an international mobility period due to coronavirus, remember to notify Kela (The Social Insurance Institution of Finland), so that you are not paid the wrong aids.

Kela will inform about other exceptions and changes later. TREY recommends using Kela’s e-services during the pandemic.

You can find Kela’s updates on the coronavirus situation here.

 

Advice for international students who apply for Kela’s social assistance

If you are an international student, your eligibility for Finnish social security depends on a number of factors. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits or basic social assistance (aka income support) depending on the length and purpose of your stay in Finland, your other income as well as your working history. You can always contact TREY, or the Tampere Migration Info Centre Mainio, if you need help in determining what kind of financial aid you should apply for. If you have lost your part-time job or your studies in Finland have ended due to the coronavirus, Kela has answered a question regarding this situation here.

Social assistance is granted by Kela, and you can apply for it via Kela’s e-services in Finnish or Swedish. When you apply for social assistance, add bank account statements for the last two months from all your bank accounts to the application as well as other information about your assets from Finland and your previous home country. All assets, such as savings, property and investments, affect your chances to receive social assistance. However during the coronavirus there are some exceptional policies in place and you do not for example have to sell your property to receive assistance. More about this below.

State in your application whether you have earned income before the corona crisis and enclose pay slips. Also enclose other supporting documents about your expenses. More information on applying for social assistance from https://www.kela.fi/web/en/social-assistance-how-to-apply

Based on this information, Kela will review the nature of your stay and your income, based on which they will decide whether you are entitled to basic social assistance. If Kela evaluates that your stay is temporary, you are not entitled to basic social assistance.

If you are not entitled to basic social assistance, you can apply for supplementary social assistance from the City of Tampere, for which they make a discretionary decision. Before that, you will need to have received a decision on basic social assistance from Kela stating that you are not entitled to it. In such a case, if you need any help, contact Migration Info Centre Mainio. You can find their contact information from https://www.tampere.fi/en/mainio.html 


Rights to Kela financial aids

You might want to look into your chances of getting the following Kela aids:

  • General housing allowance. Most students in Finland get a general housing allowance in addition to financial aid for students (study grant). The amount of the housing allowance depends on the income of your household. If you’re already receiving housing allowance but your income level has decreased since the last decision, notify Kela and they will review the amount of your housing allowance. The housing allowance being household-specific means that the income of other members of your household, such as your spouse, is considered when defining the allowance level. Adults living in the same household are expected to support each other financially if they can afford it.
  • Study grant and student loan. These are the primary forms of financial aid for students, so apply for them and use them first. If you want, you can study in the summer with the help of study grant. Kela has established a guideline that study grant doesn’t need to be cancelled or returned even if you don’t get enough study credits due to the exceptional circumstances caused by coronavirus. If studying hasn’t been possible, the student financial aid can be continued even if you haven’t progressed enough in your studies.
  • Unemployment benefits. Students who have been temporarily laid off (or furloughed) during the coronavirus are temporarily entitled to unemployment benefits. If your layoff has begun on March 16 or later, but your contract has not been entirely terminated, you may apply for unemployment benefits. It is important that you register as a job seeker with the TE-services as soon as possible when your unemployment begins, preferably on your very first day of unemployment. You can only get benefits starting on the day that your unemployment is first registered with the TE-services. Follow their instructions closely!
    Normally a student is never entitled to unemployment benefits. However due to the coronavirus a temporary law is in effect until July 31. This change in legislation only concerns students who have been temporarily laid off from their work, not those whose jobs or contracts have been fully terminated.
    Depending on your situation you may either be entitled to a) an earnings-related unemployment allowance from your own unemployment fund, b) a basic unemployment allowance from Kela, or c) a labour market subsidy from Kela. Your income may affect the amount of aid you are entitled to.
    The normal 5 day waiting period before one is entitled to the benefit will not be applied during the coronavirus. Meanwhile Kela is working on their own instructions on how the student grant affects unemployment benefits, which will have as of yet unknown consequences.
    Follow Kela’s and TREY’s announcements! We will inform you on all changes to students’ social security as soon as they are decided. Read more from Kela: Unemployment during corona
  • Social assistance. Due to the exceptional circumstances caused by coronavirus, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has instructed Kela and municipalities to not send a request for information about study progress or summer job search. The ministry has also notified Kela and municipalities that it’s not necessary to require students to withdraw student loan to qualify for social assistance this summer. The summer student loan, however, is counted as income if you have already withdrawn it. With these changes, students have easier access to social assistance than usual in the exceptional circumstances caused by coronavirus.
    The ministry has established a guideline that the liquidation of assets shouldn’t be required under the circumstances. Generally, the right to social assistance provides that you don’t have any property or assets, such as investments. The rule has been made more flexible due to the coronavirus situation. TREY’s social affairs sector follows the changes to social assistance and how these guidelines are employed. We will update information on this page.
    For social assistance, all your income and the money in your bank accounts are considered. Social assistance is household-specific, which means that your spouse’s income is also considered when making the decision. The social assistance covers reasonable rent, health care expenses and mandatory insurances. The basic amount covers food, clothing, phone and internet expenses and other essential expenses of daily living. Remember to enclose all the required supporting documents when you apply for social assistance, as the application processing is delayed if Kela has to ask you for them separately.
    You can use Kela’s calculator (in Finnish) to evaluate whether you would be entitled to social assistance.

 

Students who study alongside work and have become unemployed or been temporarily laid off

Note: This advice applies only to those who have previously worked while studying and now have been laid off due to the coronavirus. If you are an international student and have lost your job, Kela has answered a question regarding such a situation here.

Due to the temporary law reform, even a full-time student who has been temporarily laid off is entitled to unemployment benefits. The reform covers those who have been laid off no earlier than 16 March 2020. Even part-time self-employment doesn’t disqualify you from unemployment benefits at the moment if you are temporarily laid off or become unemployed

If you are temporarily laid off, register as an unemployed jobseeker with TE Services immediately. Follow the instructions here. It’s important that you register immediately after your work ends, as you can only get unemployment benefits for the time you have been an unemployed jobseeker in the TE Services’ register.

After you have registered as an unemployed jobseeker, apply for unemployment benefits from your unemployment fund or from Kela. Normally there is a 5-day waiting period during which the unemployment benefits aren’t paid, but it has been suspended.

A student who becomes unemployed isn’t normally entitled to unemployment benefits. If you become unemployed and you don’t have enough money for living expenses, apply for social assistance with the instructions here.

 

Some tips on applying for financial aids

Note: this advice concerns people who are eligible for Finnish social assistance or study grant.

  • The social assistance application may be processed faster if you state in your application that the need for assistance is temporary. A lot of individual consideration goes into the process. However, the assistance isn’t meant to fund long-term studies, and the basic amount might be cut after just a few months of studying.
  • You may not want to withdraw study grant for summer studies if no courses that qualify for your curriculum are offered, so that you don’t waste financial aid months. As told above, you can apply for social assistance this summer without having to report on your chances to study or work in the summer due to the corona-related exceptional circumstances.

Questions regarding Kela financial aids? Contact TREY’s social affairs specialist, Milka Hanhela, at milka.hanhela at trey.fi or +358 50 361 2846.

 

Food aid

In Tampere, food aid is currently organised by the Finnish Red Cross Tampere branch, diaconal work association ViaDia and the diaconal work of the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Parishes. ViaDia and the Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Parishes are Christian, but they don’t require a Christian conviction from the receivers of food aid, as help is offered for all.

The Finnish Red Cross Tampere distributes food bags on Wednesdays and Fridays at 16 o’clock in front of the meeting place Tampuri in Otavalankatu 12. You don’t have to prove your need for help with bank statements or similar documents.

ViaDia distributes food bags every weekday at 12–12.30 in front of the Free Church in Puutarhakatu 17 and on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 13–16 in front of the community centre Ikurin lähiötalo in Virontörmänkatu 13. You don’t have to prove your need for help with bank statements or similar documents.

The Federation of Evangelical Lutheran Parishes provides food aid in crisis situations. To receive help, contact the diaconal worker of your own parish. The diaconal worker will assess your need for help and decide on the help provided. Due to the coronavirus situation, the food bags are brought to your home. The parishes in Tampere are on this map (in Finnish): https://tampereenseurakunnat.fi/files/9711/kartta_srk_4aluetta_A4_nimet.pdf