COVID-19 Sex Worker Emergency Support Fund
Frequently Asked Questions
We have created this FAQ section to provide further clarification on the COVID-19 Sex Worker Emergency Support Fund. We are happy to answer any questions or comments at (subject line: COVID-19 Fund)
What groups of people are prioritized in receiving funds?
The COVID-19 Sex Worker Emergency Support fund was created for Toronto & GTA-based sex workers who have lost income because of COVID-19 and are struggling. We are prioritizing Queer and Trans, Black and Indigenous Communities of Colour, migrant sex workers and those with precarious status, as well as sex workers living with illness and disability and poor and precariously housed sex workers.
As a fund created by two Ontario-based sex workers rights organizations we recognize the unique challenges many across our industry face in the midst of social distancing guidelines including workplace closures, loss of income and clients and an inability to access emergency resources established through the federal government.
We also recognize that many in our community do not have the choice to stop working and must navigate sex work in the midst of the global health pandemic. This emergency fund is meant to support those impacted by COVID-19 in various ways across our industry.
What does it mean that Maggie’s and Butterfly are partnering together in this fund?
Does this impact how funds are distributed?
Maggie’s Toronto Sex Workers Action Project and Butterfly: Asian/Migrant Sex Worker Support Network have teamed up to establish this emergency support fund for our community.
This collaboration has involved the creation of an online application process and decision-making in regards to how funds are raised, monitored and dispersed, fundraising and media relations. We have also invested in developing the skills of sex workers rights collectives across Canada to share our processes and support others in establishing similar funds in their own unique local contexts.
In terms of disbursement and distribution - we use an anti-oppressive framework to understand how sex workers experience different forms of exclusion based on their race, gender, status and socio-economic status. This fund explicitly prioritizes Black and Indigenous communities of colour, migrant sex workers and those living with disabilities.
This impacts how people apply for and access this fund.
As undocumented migrant sex workers are especially impacted by COVID-19, we know how important it is to reach these members of our community with strong financial supports. For this reason, we have decided that Butterfly: Asian/Migrant Sex Worker Support Network will focus on direct support through their team of outreach workers who are able to connect to community members in need, assess their situation and distribute funds while Maggie's Toronto Sex Workers Action Project will oversee the online applications in addition to providing supports to our community through our outreach workers.
How are the funds divided between the two organizations?
The fundraised dollars are portioned in a 50% split to each organization.
Maggie’s receives 50% to distribute to cover the online applicants and our community identified by outreach workers.
Butterfly receives 50% for outreach to community members.
How do you decide who funds are distributed to?
The online application form is one avenue of access to this fund. Both organizations also rely on outreach workers to connect communities in need to this fund, recognizing that not everyone will be able to access or complete the online application form due to language barriers, consistent access to internet or relevant technologies, etc.
Distribution for Online Applications:
When creating the online application form, the process of evaluating online applications was a question we grappled with - to what extent does a limited online questionnaire speak to the financial hardship of anyone in our community?
We want to ensure that folks receiving funds are in need, but we don't want people to feel as though they have to disclose a lot of personal and painful information in order to receive assistance. We sought to create open-ended questions, and when reviewing we apply a low-barrier approach to acceptance.
Distribution for Outreach Workers:
Both Maggie's Toronto and Butterfly have deep connections to community outreach and sex workers across the GTA. Many of our service users are not able to access the online application form - thus we rely on outreach workers to identity, communicate with and support these communities. From issues with access to consistent internet and technology, language barriers, or for communities who are not able to open bank accounts we rely on outreach workers to provide personalized supports.
Who reviews and approves the online applications for Maggie's Toronto?
What is the process for outreach workers identifying candidates for the fund?
Online applications are reviewed by 3 current board members at Maggie’s who have sex work experience. (If you have any questions about these board members or the review process, please connect with our board chair at email@example.com.) We also rely on Maggie's staff and outreach workers to identify candidates who may not have access to consistent internet or the relevant technologies to complete the online application.
Through Butterfly, a team of outreach workers connect directly with community members in need who are unable to complete an online form for various reasons such as language barriers, and lack of internet access. The outreach workers coordinate with management to help determine the recipients of the fund.
Who sends the money to recipients?
E-transfers and cheques to online recipients are administered by management at Maggie’s. We make arrangements to distributed funds directly to community members identified by outreach workers.
Butterfly’s team distributes funds directly to community members.
How much financial assistance does each fund recipient receive?
Each recipient receives $100 from Maggie's portion of the funds. This applies to online applications and community identified by our outreach workers.
Butterfly distributes funds based on need, as their community members are often undocumented and experience significant barriers to receiving any other financial assistance. Those who may wish to connect with a Butterfly outreach worker may contact Butterfly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a one-time access fund as we want to support as many people as possible. However, we may be able to provide additional funds to individuals, depending on the number of applications we receive as well as the amount of donations.
How many online applications did you receive in the first round of funding?
How many of those actually received funding?
We received 129 online applications through the first round of applications.
Butterfly connected with 67 migrant workers eligible for funding.
Everyone received funding.
We distributed funds on a “first-come, first-served" basis and will continue to report back after the funding is dispersed.
How much money does Maggie’s and Butterfly keep for Administrative Costs?
It is standard practice for many non-profit organizations and charities running fundraisers to keep a percentage of the funds to cover administrative costs: the time it takes to organize the fundraiser, reach out to recipients and confirm the transfer of funds.
Due to the nature and impact of COVID-19 on our community Maggie's Toronto Sex Workers Action Project and Butterfly: Asian/Migrant Sex Worker Support Network will not be taking any organizational administrative costs from this fundraiser.
Our online fundraising platform Canada Helps takes 4% of all donations coming in. The rest of these funds go directly to communities impacted by COVID19.
Why do you close applications temporarily?
We launched the fundraiser on March 23rd. In only 3 days we received over 100 applications! There is overwhelming demand for this fund. We closed the applications in order to maintain a manageable volume of applications to review, and a manageable number of recipients to distribute funds to through e-transfers and cheques. We had some banking issues that then delayed our distribution process and we waited until all recipients received their funds before re-opening the applications.
To ensure that funds are distributed quickly, we will be accepting a smaller number of applications at a time going forward. To further speed up the process, we’ve asked folks to provide the email address associated with their bank account, and to provide a mailing address if they can’t receive an e-transfer.
Have you made any other changes to the application form?
We have added a question asking if folks have applied for CERB. While the benefit is available to sex workers, eligibility depends on specific factors. Some sex workers may not apply to CERB even if they qualify in order to avoid the possibility in the future that further information may be required about their income and financial situation.
While there might be changes made to CERB criteria, we wish to prioritize those who aren’t able to access this government assistance.
How are you making the grants as low-barrier as possible?
We know that sex workers experience many barriers to receiving support, and an online application form will not reach the most marginalized in our community.
Outreach workers at Maggie's and Butterfly are continually working to connect with those who are offline and experience barriers to accessing the online application form.
We are also excited to now be coordinating with folks experienced in the shelter system in order to create a process that is accessible for sex workers staying in shelters.
How can we get more information about the impact this campaign has had?
We will be providing a wrap-up report which will be on the Maggie’s website indicating how many people received funds online, through street outreach, and through developing an initiative with local shelters.
You can expect this report to be available by September 2020 (or sooner). We also encourage the public to sign up for our email list and stay up to date with our work across social media on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!