$150,000 emergency relief fund for Canadian writers announced

Two of Canada’s major arts organizations have teamed up to announce an Emergency Relief Fund for authors financially affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The fund starts with $ 150,000 and will distribute grants of $ 1,500 to writers who have seen their income evaporate due to cancelled contracts or appearances.

Financing is being supplied by the Writers’ Trust of Canada, the Writers’ Union of Canada and RBC.

“Writers, whether veterans or novices, cobble together income from a variety of sources,” said Charlie Foran, Writers’ Trust’s executive director. “This leaves them especially vulnerable during a public health crisis the magnitude of COVID-19.”

Writers rely on events including book tours, lectures, performances, festival appearances and school visits for a portion of their income and, within days, all of those events were cancelled, leaving many self-employed writers in economic crisis.

The Writers’ Union organization also recently conducted a survey of its members and found that, to date the authors surveyed project a total loss because of the COVID-19 crisis exceeding $ 1.68 million and that individual writers on average are citing a loss of $ 3,267.

These losses will increase as the crisis continues, and TWUC will continue to track them. Many professional writers, the union said, are left struggling to buy groceries or medication or pay the rent.

To put this into perspective, writers made an average of just $ 9,380 in 2017 from their writing alone, according to numbers released by the Writers’ Union.

“The crushing economic blow from COVID-19 comes at a time when writers are already imperiled by regulatory failure around copyright licensing,” says John Degen, executive director of The Writers’ Union of Canada. “And yet more than ever, the work of Canada’s authors are desperately in demand by teachers and students. We hope our contribution will inspire others to donate to keep authors working.”

If you’re a writer, applications to the fund can be made through the Writers’ Trust website at writerstrust.com. Applications are due by April 9 with payments expected to go out within a week.

To be eligible, writers must meet criteria that includes minimum publishing thresholds and detailing a loss of income that exceeds the $ 1,500 grant amount.

According to a release, another round will follow later in April, and subsequent rounds will be added as additional funds are raised. The organizations are looking for large-scale funding partners and point out that 100 per cent of all donations will go to writers in need.

If you’re in a position to donate, you can do that at writerstrust.com/donate.

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Deborah Dundas