Writers Welcome Federal Clarification on CERB Payments

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is pleased to receive clarification from the Prime Minister today on the issue of Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) eligibility. The threat of potential retroactive ineligibility and repayment of CERB benefits has caused a great deal of anxiety for self-employed authors and other artists, who applied for CERB in good faith on the understanding that gross self-employed income (including from arts grants) brought them to the income eligibility limit.

In an announcement earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explained “for people who accessed CERB based on their gross income instead of net income — as long as you met the other eligibility criteria, you will not have to return your CERB payments.”

“This is a great relief,” declared TWUC Chair Anita Daher. “So many authors and artists went into the winter holidays worried they might be required to pay back recovery money they had already spent on necessities. With events, book launches, tours, and other anticipated income opportunities cancelled from the start of the first shut down last spring, professional artists were among the first and worst hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic. They accessed CERB out of genuine need.”

In late 2020, many self-employed artists received letters from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) suggesting their eligibility for CERB might be in question. The Union worked closely with colleagues in the sector to seek clarification from the government, and keep the issue in the public eye.

“We’re very grateful for the responsiveness of the government,” noted TWUC Executive Director John Degen. “The Minister of Canadian Heritage, Steven Guilbeault, his Parliamentary Secretary, Julie Dabrusin, and Ministry and CRA staff were all in contact, trying to bring clarity in the midst of confusion. PS Dabrusin gave her time to a broad cross section of the arts community and listened closely to our concerns, and the Union met directly with CRA policy folks as well.”

As the health crisis continues, and relief programs remain on offer, authors and artists are advised to double check eligibility guidelines directly with staff at the programs in question, and to retain records of all advice received. The Union and our colleague organizations in the sector will continue to monitor the situation and stay in close communication with government.

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The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is the national organization of professionally published writers. TWUC was founded in 1973 to work with governments, publishers, booksellers, and readers to improve the conditions of Canadian writers. Now over 2,200 members strong, TWUC advocates on behalf of writers’ collective interests, and delivers value to members through advocacy, community, and information. TWUC believes in a thriving, diverse Canadian culture that values and supports writers.

For additional information
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada

DATE: February 9, 2021