How the AFC is providing financial support to workers in crisis

Executive director David Hope says the organization is on the front lines to help workers put food on the table with emergency short-term financial relief.

With productions shut down across the country due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, charitable organization the AFC is on the front lines to help industry workers keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Executive director David Hope told Playback Daily that all their resources are going to their Emergency Financial Aid program, which gives short-term financial assistance to entertainment workers. The organization was created in the 1950s as the Actors’ Fund of Canada, and was rebranded to the AFC in 2016 to open to door to helping all individuals in the entertainment sector.

The program is meant for workers who have “experienced an unforeseeable emergency that has led to a financial crisis,” but the number of eligible applicants has skyrocketed in the face of the pandemic. “We’ve gotten six weeks worth of applications of emergency financial aid since Friday and dozens of enquiries to address,” Hope says, calling the situation a “landmark event” for the AFC.

Unions and guilds have already rallied behind the AFC to give support. The IATSE international branch committed $500,000 in funds to the AFC, while the charity has also received donations from UBCP ACTRA, the national and B.C. branches of the DGC, as well as local IATSE unions, such as Local 212. Hope says they’re also receiving individual donations to help with the surge in demand.

“If you’re someone in this industry and you have a little extra to help out a friend or colleague, the AFC is a great place to direct that,” he says, adding they have the resources and expertise to point funds to where they’re most needed.

Hope says incoming aid from the government and banks is also helping to relieve the pressure. The federal government has stepped up with aid to workers who aren’t eligible for EI, with $27 billion dedicated to programs such as the Eligible Care Benefit and the Eligible Support Benefit, as well as $55 billion in tax deferrals. Meanwhile, Canadian banks are allowing a deferral of mortgage payments. The AFC aggregates financial aid information on its website, which is updated regularly.

Looking ahead to the long term, the AFC is working on the launch of its Maintaining Mental Wellness pilot program, which is specifically geared to mental health challenges for entertainment industry workers. “Our industry can be really hard on people and this particular program offers services and supports that are uniquely attuned to the needs of people and their working lives,” Hope says.

The AFC is also working on mental health first aid training, which is expected to launch this year.

“If you look for help, the help is there,” Hope says. “We are all in this together and the AFC is an expression of that.”

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