COVID-19: Information and support for the arts sector

Last updated: September 15, 2020

We encourage you to revisit this page often as it is being updated regularly.

Our thoughts go out to the many artists, staff at arts organizations, and their loved ones whose health and livelihoods are affected by the global spread of COVID-19. 

COVID-19 and the arts sector

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic.

The pandemic has led to the closure of public spaces and the cancellation of events around the world, causing great stress on the arts sector. The Canada Council for the Arts will continue to work with the Government of Canada, as well as provincial, territorial, and municipal partners, to ensure the strength of the sector.

At present, the Council’s priorities are to ensure the health and safety of people across Canada and around the world and to work towards the sustainability and recoverability of the arts sector. This includes the Council’s longstanding commitment to equity and diversity within the arts. 

Our survey

To better understand the needs of the professional arts sector in overcoming the COVID-19 crisis, the Canada Council for the Arts sent a survey to approximately 30,000 of its clients (artists, groups, and organizations) on April 6, 2020.

The survey and responses reflect the challenges faced by the professional arts sector, and address the Government of Canada’s emergency aid measures as they were during the period the survey was conducted.

Read the final report and explore our data to understand the complexity of the challenges faced by the arts and culture sector to get through the pandemic crisis.

The Canada Council for the Arts' emergency support

The Canada Council for the Arts is in ongoing dialogue with the various levels of government and arts communities across the country to better understand what is needed, and possible, in terms of support.

Below you will find the emergency support offered by the Council at this time.

Emergency support to organizations

Advance payments on core grants

The Council is advancing funds to core-funded organizations in an amount equivalent to 35% of their annual grant by May 4, 2020.

  • The payments will be automated, and there is no need to make a request for payment or to provide regular reporting documents.
  • If an organization has not yet received their 2020–21 results, their instalment will be based on their 2019–20 amount.
  • Any organization that was due to receive 100% of their core grant in April 2020 and that submitted the required documentation will receive the full amount as per usual.
  • After this automated advance has been paid, any remaining amounts will follow our regular process and timing.

COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund

The Government of Canada has set aside $500M to help alleviate the financial pressures of affected organizations through the COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations.

Canadian Heritage and its portfolio organizations are responsible for the distribution of these funds.

A two-phased approach is being taken in order to accelerate the distribution of funds.

Phase 1: support for arts organizations 

The Council is administering $55M in phase 1. These funds are intended for eligible arts organizations experiencing a significant financial impact as a result of the pandemic.

Phase 2: support for Indigenous and equity-seeking groups and organizations.

The Council is administering $7.8M in emergency support in phase 2. These funds are intended for arts groups and organizations from Indigenous, culturally diverse, Deaf and disability, and official language minority communities affected by the pandemic.

Digital Originals

Digital Originals was a one-time initiative which is now closed. The deadline was June 15, 2020. Results will be communicated to applicants within six weeks of the deadline.

For more information, visit the Digital Originals page.

Digital Strategy Fund for short term activities

The Digital Strategy Fund offers grants up to $50,000 for short term activities.

From April to July 31, 2020, artists, groups, and organizations can, at any time, submit proposals that will:

  • implement digital solutions as a strategic response to the COVID-19 crisis
  • demonstrate concrete and immediate benefits to the arts community
  • show elements of openness and potential for growth as a long-term strategy

For more information on how you can apply, visit the Digital Strategy Fund page.

Impact on our programs, initiatives, and activities

General changes to our granting activities

Extended or suspended deadlines and activities

Due to COVID-19, there have been changes to several deadlines. Please stay up to date by visiting our Deadlines and Notification of Results web pages for grant information, our Prizes web page for prize-related information, and the Public Lending Right page for information on the registration deadline for new titles. 

Peer assessment committees

The Council is currently holding virtual peer assessment committees. We’re grateful to our many accommodating assessors.

Feedback on grant applications

The Council cannot provide feedback on applications at this time due to current circumstances.

Successful grant applications: postponing your project

If your grant application is successful but you’re unsure if you’ll be able to undertake your proposed project, indicate that you do not want to receive the payment until you have confirmation of your plans in your grant acceptance form. When you make a final decision, contact the program officer identified in your results letter.

Changes to our grants

When planning the format, location and timing of your proposed project, we encourage you to stay up to date on the latest COVID-19 developments from reliable public health authorities and to carefully consider safety and risks to yourself, your collaborators and the public.

If your plans include travel and/or public gatherings, consider postponing the project, completing the project without these elements or modifying the activity to a virtual event or one that respects social distancing guidelines.

Blackout period

In accordance with the Government of Canada’s recommendation to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice, funding from the Canada Council for projects that are dependent on international travel continues to be suspended.

As of September 1, 2020, travel within Canada may be supported according to the restrictions of local health authorities. If a quarantine period is required, related costs will not be considered eligible project expenses.

Be sure to consult the Government of Canada’s travel and tourism page for important information if you plan to travel. Information specific to travelling within Canada is on the COVID-19 and travel: Crossing provincial and territorial borders page.

Conditional funding

  • Projects that include international travel will be conditional upon the lifting of the Government of Canada’s recommendation to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada and/or any restrictions prohibiting foreign nationals from entering Canada.
  • There may be restrictions or conditions on projects in which public gatherings are an essential part.

Reopened competitions

As of July 10, 2020, the portal was reopened for components that had cancelled or postponed competitions. Applications can now be created and submitted for the fall competitions.

Exceptionally, for components that had cancelled or postponed competitions, you will be able to include activities and costs from April 20, 2020 until:

  • the September 2020 competition for components with published deadlines.
  • the September or October 2020 competition for components with anytime deadlines and published cut-off dates.
  • October 31, 2020 for components with anytime deadlines without cut-off dates.

Please refer to the Deadlines and Notifications of Results page to see which components have deadlines, anytime deadlines with cut-off dates and anytime deadlines without cut-off dates.

Project grant applications dependent on travel

The blackout period for travel within Canada is from March 16 until August 31, 2020. The blackout period for international travel continues until further notice. Following are some options for funded projects that are dependent on travel during the blackout period:

  • Undertake your project without travel.
    Only travel costs are ineligible. If your travel can be postponed or modified, please contact a Program Officer in the relevant program with revised information.
  • Use the funds for other eligible expenses related to your project if you received a grant to travel during our blackout period.
    Eligible expenses include costs related to modifying, postponing, or cancelling activities. Until further notice, we will temporarily accept travel insurance as an eligible expense. Please document the impact of COVID-19 and how you used the funds in your final report, which you must submit. You will need to repay unspent funds for the project. See the guidelines below.
  • Postpone your travel beyond our blackout period dates.
    You do not need to report minor changes to dates or projects in advance. If you need to make major changes to your project, complete a project update form and email it to the appropriate program for review and approval.
  • Cancel your project for the moment.
    Do not forget to withdraw your application in your portal account—otherwise, the system will count your application towards your application limit and possibly restrict you from applying for future grants.
  • Apply for a project with travel that takes place at a future time, when there is a good possibility that travel restrictions will be lifted.
    Consult the Government of Canada’s travel and tourism page for updated information. We recommend checking insurance policies carefully and regularly, as cancellations and refunds due to COVID-19 may no longer be possible with new bookings. When making travel arrangements, you may also want to consider booking a flight that can be changed or cancelled without penalty.

Cancellations and postponed events

The Canada Council for the Arts advises grant recipients to cancel or postpone all public events in line with the guidance provided by public health authorities, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and your local and provincial or territorial health authorities.

Conditional grants will be issued to successful projects for producing or hosting public events, such as performances, exhibitions, workshops, and conferences, dependent on the ability to postpone events until after the restrictions on public gatherings are lifted. Here are your options:

  • Retain a grant for other eligible expenses of your cancelled Canada Council-funded event.
    We encourage you to find innovative ways to share your work publicly despite any cancellations of public events. This could include live-streaming, podcasting, and video. You must document the impact of COVID-19 and how you used your grant funds in your final report, which you must submit to the relevant program for approval.
  • Retain a grant for other eligible expenses related to your participation at a cancelled event.
    Eligible expenses include costs related to modifying, postponing, or cancelling activities. You must document the impact of COVID-19 and explain how you propose to use those funds in your project update report, which you must submit to the relevant program for approval.
  • Repay any unspent funds on eligible expenses.
    Unfortunately, we cannot allow you to spend those funds on activities unrelated to the approved project. See the guidelines below.
  • Check your portal account for information on whether you will need to reimburse all or part of your grant.
    If the amount granted needs to be fully or partially reimbursed, you will receive a letter through your portal account that will provide further instruction on what you need to do next. See the guidelines below.
Guidelines on the reimbursement of grants for activities affected by COVID-19  
  For grants of:   recipient must repay the unused amount if it is:

$5,000 and under


more than 15% or $500 (whichever is greater)


$5,000 up to $30,000


more than $1,000


$30,000 up to $75,000


more than $2,000


more than $75,000


more than $3,000


Government of Canada's emergency support measures

The Government of Canada is offering support measures with its COVID-19 Economic Response Plan to individuals and businesses (organizations).

Please note that Council staff cannot answer your questions about these measures. The Government of Canada site has a COVID-19 Virtual Assistant who will be able to help you.

For individuals: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will provide support to individuals who are sick, facing unemployment, or unable to work due to COVID-19. This applies to self-employed individuals and contract workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance (EI). More info on the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

For organizations: To support businesses facing revenue losses, including non-profit organizations and charities, small employers may be eligible to receive a temporary wage subsidy. More info on Canada’s support for businesses.

Other support is also available to those who are eligible, such as increased Child Care Benefit payments, and a one-time special payment of the Goods and Services Tax credit (GST/HST credit). More info on the Economic Response Plan.

Canadian Heritage support is also available to the cultural and creative sector. More info on Canadian Heritage support.

The Government of Canada has also launched Wellness Together Canada: Mental Health and Substance Use Support, which offers free online resources, tools, apps, and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals.


Individuals: How to calculate your income from a grant

The Canada Revenue Agency provided clarification about how grant income should be calculated for the purposes of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

When submitting your first CERB claim, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for 14 or more consecutive days within the four-week benefit period of your claim.

When submitting subsequent claims, you cannot have earned more than $1,000 in employment and/or self-employment income for the entire four-week benefit period of your new claim.

The timing of your grant payment has no relevance to the calculation of income and potential eligibility to the CERB. Your grant income is based on the amount of the grant less the expenses you have paid or will be paying to other people and businesses. Generally, the grant income will be the fee or subsistence allowance you are paying yourself to undertake the project. In terms of timing, this income is considered “earned” at the time work is performed over the duration of the project, not as a lump sum payment. Note that this applies to all grant revenue, not only grants from the Canada Council.

A simple example:

  • Your project started in June and will finish in October, a duration of 5 months.
  • Your grant is $10,000.
  • In order to do the project, you expect to pay other people and businesses $6,000. You are budgeting to pay yourself a fee of $4,000.

Your grant income is $4,000 for this project.

If you did grant-related work in each of the 5 months, your monthly grant income for this project is $800 per month from June to October.

If you did grant-related work in 4 of the 5 months, your monthly grant income for this project is $1,000 for each month during which work is done.

This is how you should calculate your grant income when you consider applying for support from CERB. If you are not sure that this describes your scenario, you should contact the Canada Revenue Agency and speak to an agent. Please do not contact the Canada Council for more information as we cannot provide tax guidance on specific situations. Also note that the Canada Council takes no responsibility for how this information is used and any rulings or penalties that the Canada Revenue Agency may levy as a result.

Latest news and communiqués

Blog posts from the Director and CEO, Simon Brault, on the pandemic

The Canada Council for the Arts’ Director and CEO, Simon Brault, is regularly sharing his thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the arts sector. Check back here to discover new posts.

Contact us

We invite you to explore the information on these pages before contacting us.

If you have a COVID-19-related question for the Canada Council and you didn’t find an answer here, please email Although we aim to reply within two business days, this may be affected by volume and staff availability.

Accessibility: We welcome Video Relay Service (VRS) calls, and we can also support longer conversations with your preferred sign language interpreter in ASL or LSQ. As always, we will cover these interpreting costs. Please email us at

We recognize the disproportionate effects of the COVID-19 health crisis on many equity seeking communities including Deaf and disability arts communities. Many artists and arts professionals who are Deaf, have disabilities or live with mental illness are now required to develop alternative approaches to maintaining their independence, health, and safety in everyday life. The Council wants to be as flexible as it can in the ways it is assisting and supporting the arts community. If there are alternative ways that the Council can deliver its support that will be more accommodating to your situation, please let our staff know.

For more information about the types of accommodations we currently provide, please consult our Accessibility page.

SRV Canada VRS logo

Canada Council also welcomes VRS (Video Relay Service) calls.

For more information, please see the SRV Canada VRS Canada website (