COVID-19 Relief

What is the issue?

The global COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate and devastating impact on writers’ incomes and working conditions. Furthermore, because of peculiarities of how writers earn their income, it was unclear if they would qualify for government relief through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB).

What TWUC is doing

At the beginning of the lockdown, TWUC immediately launched an economic impact survey and encouraged all members to share information with us about how the pandemic was expected to affect their earnings. The early gathering of stats allowed us to take reliable information to government in our advocacy efforts.

With our sister organization the Writers’ Trust of Canada, TWUC diverted funds in our budget into a special project called the Canadian Writers’ Emergency Relief Fund (CWERF). Initially launched in late March with $150,000, we managed to attract other donors to the fund (thank you Access Copyright Foundation, RBC Foundation, J&W Murphy Foundation, Amazon.ca, and Audible, and all the individual donors who contributed). To date, the CWERF has distributed $376,000 in $1,500 gifts to writers in extreme need.

TWUC met with officials in the Department of Canadian Heritage to lobby for changes to CERB eligibility rules, specifically to ensure that royalty payments did not disqualify writers from the relief program. TWUC prioritized advocacy toward a Basic Income Guarantee for all Canadians. This effort was continued late in 2020 and early 2021 when there was a suggestion from the Canada Revenue Agency that some authors’ eligibility, based on arts grant income, was in doubt. We believe we have now established that arts grant income can be used to qualify for emergency relief applications, but we advise members to get acknowledgement of this from the relief program itself when applying.

Finally, in early 2021, TWUC launched a Mentorship Microgrants program to encourage members to continue to develop their craft and learn about the business of writing even as we were all still struggling with lockdown conditions.

What you can do

If you are in contact with your Member of Parliament, please emphasize TWUC’s support for a Basic Income Guarantee.

Further reading


TWUC’s advocacy is most effective as the collective voice of Canada’s professional authors. We are stronger together. If you are not already a member of TWUC and are working as a writer, consider joining the Union. If you wish to support TWUC’s advocacy outside of membership, consider donating to the Union.