There will be changes to several of Kela’s benefits as of January 1, 2021. Here are the most important changes related to student benefits. You can find all the changes in Kela’s press release.
Incomes Register expanded to cover information on pensions and social security benefits
Starting from the beginning of 2021, wage data as well as data on paid benefits and pensions must be reported to the national Incomes Register. Individuals who receive income can check the Incomes Register’s e-service for real-time information on their salary, pension and benefit income.
Beginning 1 January 2021, Kela will report to the Incomes Register all taxable benefits as well as tax-exempt benefits which affect the basic social assistance and compensations for expenses paid in connection with unemployment benefits. Basic social assistance and disability allowance payments will still remain outside the register.
Students to pay a healthcare fee to Kela
Starting 1 January 2021, Kela will have administrative responsibility for providing health services to higher education students, including the collection of a healthcare fee. The Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) will starting from next year provide services not only to students of traditional universities but also to students of universities of applied sciences.
The student healthcare fee must be paid by all students who are completing a degree at a Finnish institution of higher education and have registered as attending for the term in question.
Higher education students must pay the fee to Kela starting with the spring term of 2021. In 2021, the fee will be EUR 35.80 per term. Students are not billed for the fee but are expected to pay it unprompted via Kela’s e-service.
Changes to student financial aid due to the coronavirus epidemic
The target time to qualify for a student loan compensation or student loan tax deduction can be extended by 0.5 academic years for students who completed a degree in higher education during the autumn term of 2020 (1 August 2020 – 31 December 2020) and whose graduation was delayed because of the coronavirus epidemic.
Students who did not graduate within the target time will in March-April 2021 receive a decision proposal from Kela informing them that they have not been granted a student loan compensation or tax deduction. They should then submit a request to Kela to have their case reviewed and provide information about the studies required for the degree that they did not complete in the spring term of 2020 (1 January – 31 July 2020) and explain how the coronavirus epidemic affected these studies.
Students who postpone the beginning of their studies in a higher education institution because of the epidemic may also qualify for an extension of the target graduation time. The above applies to students whose first admission to a degree programme is for a programme scheduled to begin in autumn term 2020 or in spring term 2021, but the coronavirus epidemic has caused them to postpone the start of their studies.
The meal subsidy for higher education students will increase to EUR 2.30 per meal starting 1 January 2021. In practice this means that Kela’s share of the cost of the meal will increase, while the student’s out-of-pocket share will decrease.
Increases in family benefits
The minimum amount of the maternity, paternity and parental allowances and of the special care allowance will go up. The new amount will be EUR 29.05 per day (EUR 28.94 per day in 2020).
The euro amounts of child care allowances tied to the national pensions index will go up 0.4%.
General housing allowance: Maximum housing costs increased slightly
The maximum housing costs allowed under the general housing allowance scheme will be adjusted in line with the cost-of-living index. This means that the maximum housing costs will be increased slightly at the beginning of 2021. The new maximum limits will apply to all reviews and awards of housing allowance made on or after 1 January 2021.
The amount of water charges recognised as housing costs will also rise slightly. In 2021, up to EUR 19 per month per person in separately paid water charges can be recognised as housing costs.
Due to an adjustment of the national pensions index, the basic deductible applicable to housing allowance recipients is reduced somewhat. This means that the income limit to qualify for a full housing allowance will go up slightly. In 2021, the full rate of allowance is available on an income of EUR 606 plus EUR 100 for each adult and EUR 224 for each child in the household.
Changes to the reimbursement of travel costs when visiting a student healthcare or voucher-based medical care provider
Starting 1 January 2021, students attending a traditional university or a university of applied sciences will become eligible for reimbursements for travel costs arising from a visit to the Finnish Student Health Service (FSHS) to get basic medical care. Costs are reimbursed up to the amount that a visit to the nearest FSHS location offering the treatment needed by the student would cost.
There will be changes also to the rules governing the reimbursement of travel costs in connection with medical care obtained with a voucher. Travel costs to and from the treatment provider will be reimbursed in the same way as trips to a provider selected in accordance with the freedom of choice enshrined in the Health Care Act. This usually means the main health centre operated by a municipality or joint municipal authority.