On June 16, 2020, the Government of Canada announced that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will be extended for a further eight weeks for Canadians who are still unable to return to work due to provinces and territories gradually reopening their economies. Details on eligibility criteria are pending, though members are encouraged to read the media release from the Prime Minister which provides some insight.
The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is an emergency fund created to provide temporary income support available to Canadians forced to stop working because of COVID-19. The CERB provides $500 a week for up to a maximum of 16-weeks and is available to both employees and independent contractors provided they earned employment and/or self-employment income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of a CERB application.
Now We are Here
Given the many current states of emergency still in place across the country, and corresponding bans on large public gatherings, it will be some time until the live performance industry makes a recovery. CERB income support is critical for Equity members who are mostly self-employed contractors and unable to claim Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. Members who are employees may also apply for the CERB if entitlements to EI run out and there are still no work opportunities available.
The 16-week CERB claim window for cultural sector workers who lost income as of mid-March and began a CERB claim soon thereafter, is ending July 15, 2020. It is clear that the live performance sector is going to be one of the very last sectors to reopen. This prolonged closure seriously restricts Equity members' access to work opportunities and ability to earn income.
Equity members need the CERB support to be extended beyond its current 16-week maximum until venues and rehearsal spaces are able to open again, or face serious economic uncertainty.
Equity has formed a coalition with our colleagues at IATSE, the Canadian Federation of Musicians and the Associated Designers of Canada, and we are presently meeting with an ever-growing list of bureaucrats and MPs building support to extend the CERB. While Equity and its coalition partners press the Government to extend the CERB at the federal level, Equity members can also make a difference. It's time to get this same message out locally by participating in a grassroots advocacy letter campaign, asking their local MPs for support in extending the CERB.
Use the link below to find your local MP. Email them using the letter template provided (customizing the text in blue highlight), or call their office to speak with them directly. Whatever you're most comfortable with.
Email or call them. You can find their contact info on their web page.
- Visit www.ourcommons.ca/members/en
- Enter your postal code in the search field.
- Click on the MP's name.
- Click on the MP's 'Contact' tab to find their email address, phone number and mailing address.
Insert a paragraph about yourself:
- I am a (performer, director, stage manager etc.)
- Contracts you’ve lost to date (if you can, assign a dollar value to what you have lost)
- Upcoming contracts you anticipate losing
- Loss of other jobs you normally do to support yourself
- Other commitments – including schooling children or caring for family
- Include if you have supported your local MP's election campaign with donations or as an election volunteer
Example: I am an actor and fight director. I had a contract this summer with NAME OF COMPANY to do outdoor theatre in the parks around NAME OF CITY. This contract was cancelled, which has resulted in me losing nearly $7,000 in income I was expecting to earn this summer. I also have a contract for October /November at NAME OF THEATRE and I fully expect that this contract will also have to be cancelled meaning further loss of income for me. Between Equity contracts, I often do tutoring with high school students and due to social distancing regulations this work has also been lost.
Template Email Text to Copy/Paste
Subject: EXTENSION OF THE CERB FOR LIVE PERFORMANCE SECTOR WORKERS
Dear Mr. Ms, Honourable (if your local MP is a Minister), Member of Parliament
I write to you as a constituent and as a member of Canadian Actors' Equity Association (Equity).
Equity is the voice of professional artists engaging in live performance in English Canada. We are a national association representing almost 6,000 artists working in theatre, opera and dance from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Equity's membership includes performers, directors, choreographers, fight directors and stage managers.
The live performance sector was one of the first sectors to be shut down when COVID-19 began. While provinces are slowly emerging from social distancing restrictions, it is clear that the live performance sector is going to be one of the very last sectors to reopen. This prolonged closure seriously restricts my access to work opportunities and my ability to provide for people who may depend on me.
As a self-employed contractor, I am unable to claim Employment Insurance benefits. Like many Canadians, I welcomed the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) to help me through this crisis. However, with the opening of live performance venues at least several months (if not longer) away, I urgently need this support to continue beyond its current 16-week maximum period, after which, I am facing a serious economic uncertainty.
I am reaching out to you as my representative in Parliament to bring the needs of your constituents who work in the live performance sector to the discussions in Ottawa, so that the necessity for extending financial support for my sector can be heard.
Thank you for taking up my concerns and in advance for your help making sure that cultural workers are supported until we can resume our jobs making theatre, opera and ballet happen from coast-to-coast-to-coast again.
French translation of template letter (courtesy of member Elaine Normandeau).