How to Apply for CERB as a Stripper or Other Self Employed Sex Worker

In response to the COVID-19 epidemic, the federal Canadian government is giving 2000$ of taxable income per month for up to 4 months to Canadians who don’t qualify for EI, but are out of work due to the pandemic. In order to qualify, you must have a Social Insurance Number, and have earned at least 5000$ in the twelve months before you apply for benefits, and be out of a job due to COVID-19.

What does this mean for strippers and other sex workers? Thankfully, you are eligible. But it also means that you have to have either 2018 or 2019 taxes submitted – more on taxes in a bit. And if your partner is also self-employed and out of work due to COVID-10, you can both apply for the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).

So best case scenario, you are up to date on your taxes and already have a myCRA account. Congratulations! You can apply for benefits through the myCRA portal on the day specified by your birth month, and receive benefits direct deposited into your account in about 48 hours.

If you are up to date on taxes but don’t have a myCRA account, you can apply for benefits online or by phone and receive a cheque in about ten days. It’s important to note that myCRA sends a code using regular mail, once you receive this code, you can go online and change it so you can receive funds by direct deposit going forward. So if you apply through the Service Canada portal or by phone, don’t forget to apply for the myCRA account code online!

If you are behind on your taxes, don’t panic. All you need is your 2019 taxes, then you can go back later and file for previous years. If your tax situation is not complicated (e.g., if you haven’t gotten divorced or sold a house in the last year), then doing your taxes yourself through one of those online programs like Turbotax is not that hard or time consuming. If you feel you need an accountant and don’t have one, reach out to us by email or on Twitter, and we’ll provide you with a couple of sex work friendly options (who are self-employed persons like you and are not free but are reasonably priced). You can also get help from Glad Day Book Shop, they have a sex worker friendly relief fund for LGBTQ community members, and offer help in getting your finances in order if you are applying to their fund.

You might have heard that everyone who applies by phone gets approved. This is true, but keep in mind that someone at some point will be back checking all applicants for eligibility, and there is a risk that you may have to pay everything back if you made a false statement. I suppose you can apply for the benefits, and do your taxes a few days later, but we don’t recommend you take these steps as it’s unclear when the government will be starting their back checking.

A couple of additional notes:

  1. You don’t have to put the nature of your employment on your income tax return. Your accountant can advise you, but you can categorize yourself as a model, or entertainer of some kind if you feel more comfortable with that option. See the CRA’s industry codes for how you might describe your self-employment.
  2. The benefit is taxable income, so you will be responsible on paying taxes on your cheque. We advise putting 20% away for this purpose. Worst case scenario, you won’t be caught with a huge tax bill next year. If however you have a low income for 2020, it’s possible that you won’t have to pay back any amount. Either way you will want to know which tax bracket you are in (according to what you declare to Canada Revenue Agency).

If you apply for CERB and are successful, help us reassure others by tagging us on Twitter @twerksafe. If you attempt to apply and run into difficulties we may not have anticipated, let us know by email us at worksafetwerksafe@gmail.com so that we can try to help you and also improve this post.

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