Last Updated: November 16th, 2020 11:00AM EDT

During this time of unprecedented hardship for musicians and the music industry, our staff are tirelessly working to advocate on behalf of all musicians to bring some stability and relief to those in-need during the COVID-19 crisis. For updates from our labour and music industry partners, please follow us on Facebook or Twitter at @cfmusicians

Cultural associations, unions and guilds representing over 75,000 artists and cultural workers from across Canada met virtually on December 17, 2020, with MP Julie Dabrusin (Toronto-Danforth), Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Matthew Gray, Policy Advisor to the Minister of National Revenue, and other representatives from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of National Revenue. At issue, self-employed artists’ eligibility for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the recent letter over 400,000 Canadians received from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

“We appreciate the time the government has taken to meet with us, share insights and answer our questions, but we still do not have general agreement on the eligibility of $5,000 income as gross or net of related expenses, and we would like the government to agree to gross earnings,” said Theresa Tova, ACTRA National Treasurer and ACTRA Toronto President on behalf of the associations. “Our members applied in good faith and we would like an official statement put out by government that eligibility will be based on gross income before cultural workers have to endure a difficult holiday season.

“The fact is many of the self-employed gig workers who have received these letters are among the most financially distressed people in our country,” Tova continued. “On average, artists' annual earnings are between $12,000-$16,000 gross, and during the pandemic, when their secondary service jobs also disappeared, they continued to have significant expenses like any small businesses.”

The associations were seeking clarity and a change of CRA policy regarding CERB eligibility expressed in the CRA letter. The associations believe the published CERB eligibility requirement to show an income threshold was gross self-employment income, not net of expenses. While the meeting did not result in a commitment from the Government to change their policy or provide a clarifying public statement, a number of clarifications about the CRA letter were provided during the meeting.

According to Government officials at the meeting:

· Canadians should know that the CRA letter is not a determination of eligibility, rather it was an early warning sign that the government did not yet have enough information to confirm their eligibility for CERB.

· The government always said that recipients’ eligibility would be verified after the program’s conclusion. CRA is at the beginning of this process, which will unfold over the coming months.

· Recipients who received the CRA letter may be eligible for the CERB, and in fact 2020 tax return information will help determine eligibility in many cases, but the CRA has not yet received that information.

· The CRA issued the letters to allow recipients an opportunity to return amounts in case they find themselves ineligible for one or more CERB periods for which they received the benefit.

· The timing of the letter and the December 31, 2020, target for returning funds were chosen to prevent impacts on 2020 tax returns and on other benefits such as the CCB or GST/HST tax credit. It is not a repayment deadline.

· There will be no interest or penalties assessed as a result of a CERB recipient not repaying ineligible amounts by December 31, 2020.

The associations and Government left the meeting with a pledge to continue to work together to provide additional clarification for communities. MP Dabrusin invited Canadians to contact their Member of Parliament for additional information on this or any other potential government benefit or program to see them through the pandemic

For the full documentation of the meeting click here: /uploads/file/2020.12.18%20%20250%20PM%20Release%20regarding%20CRA%20Clarifications%20for%20Artists.docx

To read the letter sent to MP's click here: /uploads/file/2020.12.11%20Letter%20to%20Ministers%20From%20Arts%20and%20Culture%20Worker%20Associations.pdf

The Canadian Federation of Musicians has joined over 75,000 arts workers in a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling on the government to implement a BASIC INCOME FOR THE ARTS. Read the full letter: HERE


The Canadian Emergency Relief Benefit has now been changed to the Canada Recovery Benefit

The Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) gives income support to employed and self-employed individuals who are directly affected by COVID-19 and are not entitled to Employment Insurance (EI) benefits. The CRB is administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).

If you are eligible for the CRB, you can receive $1,000 ($900 after taxes withheld) for a 2-week period.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland and Minister of Employment Carla Qualtrough held a press conference to announce changes to the Employment Insurance (EI) system and the future of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The following is the Canada Council's summary of the announcements.

EI Reform

  • The national employment rate of 13.1% has been standardized to ensure access to EI benefits across the country.
  • Changes to EI are for a one-year period, and will come into effect September 27.
  • A one-time top-up of insurable hours will enable more people to access EI.
  • Those seeking regular EI benefits for job loss can receive a 300-hour top-up.  
    • Generally, this means that Canadian workers only require 120 hours of work to access EI benefits.
    • Those seeking special benefits (i.e., maternity, parental, sickness) can receive a 480-hour top-up. The top-up for maternity/parental leave or other family assistance benefits will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.
  • As of September 27, EI premiums will be frozen for two years (at the lowest level since 1980):
    • Employers: $2.21 of every $100 of insurable salary
    • Workers: $1.58 of every $100 of insurable salary
    • Minimum EI benefit will be $400/week, ensuring that no one claiming EI receives less than those receiving other benefits. This is equal to the current CERB amount.

New benefits

  • New benefits were announced for those who are not eligible for EI (e.g., self-employed, gig workers):
    • Canada Recovery Benefit: Self-employed and other workers not eligible for EI will receive $400/week, for up to 26 weeks over one year.
    • Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit: Workers who must miss work to stay home to care for a child under the age of 12, a family member or dependent will receive $500/week, for up to 26 weeks over one year.
    • Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit: Those unable to work due to illness or self-isolation can receive $500/week, for two one-week periods over the year.
  • Both the new benefits and EI will allow the opportunity to work while claiming the benefits, as well as access to training and work incentives.

For more information, please visit:

French: Le gouvernement du Canada annonce un plan pour soutenir les Canadiens pendant la prochaine phase de la relance

These are the eligibility requirements for the CRB for the full document, click: HERE.

TO APPLY ONLINE: go to the “My CRA” website, and log in to your account. There is a COVID-19 Canada Emergency Response Benefit alert banner at the top of the page. Select the period you want to apply for, declare that you qualify, and confirm that the government has the right to your payment information. Available seven days per week, 21 hours from 6AM to 3AM ET.

TO APPLY BY PHONE: call the toll-free line 1-800-959-2019. Please have your Social Insurance Number and you Postal Code ready for identification verification. Available seven days per week, 21 hours from 6AM to 3AM ET.

We urge those that intend to apply for the benefit to create a My CRA account, and those that have an account, please verify that your banking and mailing information is up-to-date.

For more information on other programs available through Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan click: HERE

Please share your covid stories at to help us continue to advocate musicians' issues on your behalf.

The Section 21 Health and Safety Advisory Committee for Film and Television has created a document to provide guidance to employers/producers, supervisors and working professionals on identifying and mitigating potential workplace risks related to the COVID-19. Read the full document: HERE

GMMQ Local 406 was in consultation in the creation of a Toolkit for the Performing Arts Sector for Re-Opening during Covid-19. For Performance Halls and Movie Theatres click: HERE // For the Audiovisual Sector, click: HERE

The Music Performance Trust Fund (MPTF) has expanded their funding program to include live streaming perfomances. To apply, please contact your local officers for more information.

Canada Council for the Arts Digital Grants:

The Canada Council for the Arts and CBC/Radio-Canada have launched a new initiative to help you pivot your work for digital dissemination. For a limited time, Digital Originals is offering $5000 in micro-innovation grants to artists wanting to go digital. Along with these grants, selected artist will be featured as part of an online showcase to be curated by CBC Radio-Canada. For more information, click: HERE

RBC has donated $150,000 to the CCA program to directly assist new and emerging artists with digital initiatives, for more info, click: HERE

SOCAN has announced a new program to compensate artists doing live-streamed performances. Artists can apply to receive $150 for a 30-minute or 10-song live-stream (with a minimum of 100 viewers). For more information, click: HERE

Please review the following resources for more information:

Understand Reopening Rules

Advocate to Government

My CRA Online Portal

Canada Emergency Response Benefit Application Information

CERB Eligibility Changes to Include $1,000 of Income

Canada Revenue Agency Emergency Tax Benefits

CUPE: Canada Emergency Response Benefit Q&A

Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan

Canada Emergency Responce Benefit Act

COVID-19 Resources for AFM US Members

$500M pledged to Canadian Heritage

For frequently asked questions, please see the Government of Canada Q&A: HERE

The CFM is urging all members to write to their elected officials in support of an extention of the CERB. Please see the full letter the CFM has sent to Ministers and MPs across Canada: and click HERE for an easy-to-use template:

Sign the petition by the Directors' Guild of Canada to extend the CERB:

The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) was opened on April 27, 2020. For organizations wishing to participate, please visit the CEWS Eligibility website to confirm your eligibility and calculate your subsidy amount. 

Canada Emergency Wage Benefit Website

Wage subsidies for small businesses FAQ

Economic Response Plan Wage Subsidy

Local 1000 Letter re: No work for 14 days

Question on Senate Floor re: No work for 14 days

TMA149 update to members re: No work for 14 days


Black Lives Matter: The CFM participated in the #TheShowMustBePaused Music Industry Blackout Tuesday, and will continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement in whatever ways are possible. If you would like a list of anti-racist resources to read or share with your staff, members, colleagues, family, click: HERE. For a statement of support for Black Lives Matter from AFM International President Ray Hair, click: HERE

MPTF Music Family Scholarship: The Music Performance Trust Fund is now offering scholarships of up to $100,000 to children of AFM members (in US & Canada), click: HERE for more info. 

The AFM has signed a joint letter to the US government from performing arts organizations requesting an extension to artists' visas. To read the full letter and list of recommendations, click: HERE

Our SAVE LIVE ARTS / SAUVER LES ARTS VIVANTS campaign continues to petition the government for comprehensive aid and support for musicians and the “live arts” industry. Please follow the link: HERE for more information.

The following resources are offering aid to musicians during the COVID-19 Crisis:

The Unison Benevolent Fund offers financial aid, consoling, and more for musicians and music industry professionals. To access aid, you must be registered in their program. Registration is free, and can be accessed: HERE

The Petrillo Memorial Fund is for AFM/CFM members that are unable to work due to physical or mental disability (this included sickness from COVID-19). Members can download the application: HERE or for more information click: HERE

The AFC “Lifeline for Canada’s Entertainment Industry” has stated that its financial aid benefit includes support for musicians. For more information click: HERE, for the application form, click: HERE

Many Locals are offering support to their members during the COVID-19 crisis. Please contact your Local office for more information. A list of contact information for Canadian Locals can be found: HERE and HERE for Local 1000

Music Industry Associations across the country are also offering their support to musicians during this time. We encourage you to seek out what resources are available.

Music Together is a concert streaming platform that pays $1,000 in emergency relief funding for livestreamed concerts. Click HERE for the application information.

Due to the State of Emergency declared by the Province of Ontario, the Canadian Federation of Musicians National Office will temporarily remain closed to the public, with staff working reduced hours from home and the office. All staff will be available by email during this time. We have access to mail and courier delivery, therefore petitions for P2 visas will be processed within 5 business days. To contact a department or staff member, please see our staff directory: HERE.

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