Artist and Cultural Worker Associations, Unions and Guilds met with Government to discuss CERB Eligibility Issues


Associations, unions and guilds (“associations”) 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.


A complete list of attendees at the meeting is as follows:


From Government:

  • Julie Dabrusin, Member of Parliament for Toronto-Danforth, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage
  • Irene Cheung, Policy Advisor, Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage
  • Matthew Gray, Policy Advisor, Office of the Minister of National Revenu
  • Brendan Parsley, Parliamentary Secretary Assistant, Office of the Minister of Canadian Heritage


From Artist and Cultural Worker Associations, Unions and Guilds:

  • Keith Martin Gordey, ACTRA National Vice-President and UBCP/ACTRA President
  • Theresa Tova, ACTRA National Treasurer and ACTRA Toronto President
    Lisa Blanchette, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, ACTRA National
  • Renuka Bauri, Canadian Arts Coalition
  • Steven Sparling, Associate Executive Director, Canadian Actors’ Equity Association
  • Sasha Sobrino, General Manager, CAPIC National
  • April Britski, National Executive Director, CARFAC
  • Jason Samilski, Executive Director, CARFAC Ontario
  • Maegen Black, Director, Canadian Crafts Federation
  • Kathleen Morris, Chair of Advocacy Committee, Canadian Crafts Federation
  • Aviva Fleising, Interim Managing Director, Canadian Dance Assembly
  • Alan Willaert, AFM Vice-President from Canada, Canadian Federation of Musicians
  • Liana White, Executive Director, Canadian Federation of Musicians
  • Ken MacKenzie, President, IATSE Local ADC 659
  • Emmanuel Madan, Director, Independent Media Arts Alliance
  • Michael Adam Murray, Executive Director, Toronto Musicians’ Association, CFM Local 149
  • Neal McDougall, Director of Policy, Writers Guild of Canada
  • John Degen, Executive Director, The Writers’ Union of Canada



In this update:

  1. Attend this Friday’s General Meeting
  2. Join request for clarity regarding CERB Eligibility Letters
  3. Understand Reopening Rules
  4. Advocate to Government
  5. Learn about Ontario Second Career Grants
  6. Learn about PPE and Covid-19 Mitigation Funding
  7. Review many Funding Options
  8. Get help with Mental Health
  9. Understand P2 Fee Changes
  10. Come Out to the Next Town Hall
  11. Remind yourself of TMA149 and CFM Office Access
  12. Explore TMA149’s Covid-19 Update Archive

AnchorGeneral Meeting – Including 2021 TMA149 Covid Relief Motions

As first published in Crescendo in November, TMA149 is holding a General Meeting this Friday.

Motions to be discussed and voted upon include:

2021 Covid-19 Motion 1 of 6 – Dues Relief and Restructure

2021 Covid-19 Motion 2 of 6 – Expelled Status Relief

2021 Covid-19 Motion 3 of 6 –Reinstatement Relief

2021 Covid-19 Motion 4 of 6 –Work Dues Relief for Music Lessons

The full agenda and other motions are in the December Crescendo.

If you need help with setting up your technology please contact Scott Harrison, Business Representative (and resident Zoom Tech).

Connect on mobile or computer to fully participate and vote:

Topic: TMA149 General Meeting
Time: Dec 18, 2020 11:00 AM America/Toronto

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AnchorCERB Eligibility Letters

We are appreciative of the Federal Government’s leadership in supporting self-employed persons through the pandemic by implementing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (the “CERB”).  These benefits have been, and continue to be, a lifeline for many of our members.  Unfortunately many members have received a letter from the Canada Revenue Agency (the “CRA”) stating the CRA cannot confirm the member’s eligibility for CERB amounts already received (the “Eligibility Letter”).   As a whole, the Eligibility Letter is most easily understood as a request to repay all amounts received under the CERB.

The key consideration in the Eligibility Letter is that CRA is asserting that the $5,000 of self-employment income threshold to determine up front eligibility must be net of expenses, not gross.

Please talk to your accounting professional if you have received this letter.

In the meantime TMA149 has coordinated an approach to government joined by unions and guilds representing more than 75,000 arts and culture workers, to ask that the government reconsider the terms of the Eligibility Letter.  We are not asking that members reinforce this approach with their own action given the sensitive nature of the issue.  We will share the response of government if and when it is received.

AnchorMaking Sense of Reopening Rules and Lockdown Funding

The Province of Ontario released its new “COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open” on November 3, 2020 and it has been revised multiple times since that date.

You can find your region and its level of restrictions here.

Further, TMA149 understands the following as it pertains to our membership, for all levels including lockdown.

  • Recording studios, concert venues, theatres and cinemas, as well as other spaces, can open for the purpose of rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted concert, sound recording, film/television scoring, recorded artistic event or recorded theatrical performance provided that no spectators/audiences are present, and performers maintain physical distancing (with limited exceptions). In addition, when in Control (Red) or Lockdown (Grey) status singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from other performers by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
  • For all other restrictions please review the new framework.
  • We are curious if any of our members have accessed the $300 million in property tax and energy cost reimbursement offered by the provincial government.  Please share your stories by emailing Michael Murray, Executive Director directly.  If you would like to apply, please click here.

AnchorMPTF Funding for Free Live Streams, Streaming Best Practices and TMA149 Streaming Agreements

For members who wish to stream their performances to the public, or are hired by community organizations, businesses, schools or institutions to do so, here are some guidelines we would like you to read:

For help with any of the above contact our staff.

AnchorAdvocacy Update

TMA149 and the Federation continue to advocate for musicians in the following areas:

  • Advocacy that musicians are included in a fair and transparent reopening plan at the Province of Ontario and the municipalities and regions in our local.
  • That musicians fairly benefit through increased public investment in the arts & culture sector and through legislative changes at the Federal and Provincial level.

Learn About Ontario Second Career GrantsAnchor

You can get new skills – those needed for jobs in demand now – and financial support when you qualify for Second Career.

Apply for up to $28,000 for costs including:

  • tuition
  • books
  • manuals, workbooks or other instructional costs
  • transportation
  • basic living allowance (maximum $410 per week)
  • child care

Attend an upcoming free information session provided by George Brown College.

AnchorOntario Together – Provincial Portal for PPE, Covid-19 Mitigation Ideas and Related Funding

The Province of Ontario has set up a portal to help businesses supply and source PPE, as well as receive ideas and proposals on how to mitigate Covid-19 while reopening the province.  There is $50 million in funding available for approved projects through the portal, and the province announced $300 million in support for businesses affected by the re-entry into Phase 2 in certain regions, including our region, of the province.  Additional details on how to apply for the $300 million announced are pending.

Reconnect Festival and Event Program 2020-2021 and Funding ReminderAnchor

The Province of Ontario announced the Reconnect Festival and Event Program to:

  • provide experiences that encourage people to travel locally and rediscover the beauty and diversity of their community
  • draw attendees and provide positive economic impact for the local community, the region and the province
  • create job opportunities for Ontarians, particularly in the tourism, culture and entertainment sectors
  • increase Ontario’s profile through media and/or broadcast exposure to generate interest in future travel to the province once it is safe to do so again

Remember that this program is additional to special and regular funding at Canada Council for the Arts, FACTOR, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Music Investment Fund, Ontario Trillium Foundation and Toronto Arts Council.

Mental Health SupportsAnchor

TMA149 wishes to remind our members of the mental health supports:

  • TMA149 Benevolent Funds – members who have mental health diagnosis may apply for support to the TMA149 Health Benefit and Member Assistance Fund, as well as the Federation’s Lester Petrillo Memorial Fund for Disabled Musicians. Log into the member side of the TMA149 website to find out more and access application materials.
  • Unison Benevolent Fund Counselling & Health Solutions – The Unison Benevolent Fund offers a toll-free number to connect Canadian music professionals with resources and support for personal and practical issues. This service is free, anonymous, confidential and available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Before you make the call, please register with Unison. 1-855-986-4766.
  • ConnexOntario – ConnexOntario provides service information for people experiencing problems with gambling, drugs, alcohol, or mental health. Helpful, supportive system navigation specialists answer all calls, emails or web chat requests 24/7. Connex Ontario referral service is free and confidential. 1-866-531-2600 or Chat or Email.


P2 Visa Fee ChangesAnchor

Back in April our Federation joined with partners across the United States to call for the relaxation of visa rules and fees to support response to and recovery from the Covid-19 Pandemic.  USCIS ignored this call and doubled down.  Currently the P2 Visa regular processing fee is $460 USD.  Beginning October 1, 2020 the processing fee was scheduled to increase to $695 USD.  As already reported by our Federation, due to the political action of immigration advocates in the state of California, the P2 Visa increase and various other changes to immigration into the United States have been put on pause pending legal action.

USCIS after receiving this decision did quickly move to increase premium processing fees.

We will keep you updated and our Federation has put together a committee to formulate an ask of both the Canadian and US governments to relieve the burden of border crossing fees and wait times.  TMA149 Executive Director Michael Murray is a member of this committee chaired by Federation  Vice-President from Canada Alan Willaert, and including Canadian Office Executive Director Liana White, Local 547 Calgary Secretary-Treasurer Doug Kuss and Local 161-710 Washington DC President Ed Malaga.

Next Town Hall – Monday December 21, 2020 @ 10:00 AMAnchor

We are having our next Covid-19 Town Hall Monday December 21, 2020 @ 10:00 AM.  Please bring questions for fellow members and TMA149 staff.

Topic: TMA149 Town Hall
Time: Dec 21, 2020 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 840 4391 6518
One tap mobile
+16473744685,,84043916518# Canada
+16475580588,,84043916518# Canada

Dial by your location
+1 647 374 4685 Canada
+1 647 558 0588 Canada
+1 778 907 2071 Canada
+1 438 809 7799 Canada
+1 587 328 1099 Canada
Meeting ID: 840 4391 6518
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TMA149 and CFM OfficeAnchor

Our office is remaining physically closed for the time being and we are working from home.  Although we are still accepting phone calls, mail and courier delivery, we ask that you access services by email whenever possible. Those working please continue to send contracts, reports, dues and pension contributions electronically, by mail or by courier.  Please note the Canadian Office of the Federation is open for electronic services and accepting P2 applications by mail.

Covid-19 Update ArchiveAnchor

All Covid-19 Updates and other Covid-19 resources may be found here:

Always feel free to reach out to TMA149 Board or office staff with specific requests including regular business inquiries.

In Solidarity