More than 200 major charities in Canada have formed an emergency coalition to call upon the Canadian government to establish a stabilization fund amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The coalition is seeking a $10-billion stabilization fund, saying this would prevent an impending and irreparable collapse of Canada’s non-profit sector.
Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder and president of War Child Canada who spearheaded the initiative, told Global News the situation is “critical.”
“We are seeing grants cancelled, we’re seeing donations get cold, we’re seeing the revenue from events dry up,” she said.
“It’s basically a ticking time-bomb as far as we’re concerned.”
Nutt said some of Canada’s charitable organizations have already been faced with having to lay off between 20 and 80 per cent of their workforce.
According to a press release from the coalition, Canada’s charitable sector employs more than 1.4 million Canadians and contributes more than eight per cent to the country’s GDP.
Nutt said Canada’s charities support millions of people domestically and around the world.
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If they are not able to provide the services those people rely on, Nutt says the effects could be “devastating.”
What’s more, Nutt said as a result of the outbreak, a number of charities have reported a “huge surge” in demand for services, and are already feeling the strain.
“We had more than a million Canadians who’ve been laid off just in the past 10 days,” she said. “And so food banks, we know, are seeing an increase in demand.
“People are definitely struggling to make ends meet.”
Many of Canada’s charities are already using their reserve funds, something Nutt says is likely only feasible for a few months.
“My honest prediction is that at least half of Canadian charities will not withstand the COVID-19 crisis unless there is significant government action on this,” she said.
Nutt said the coalition is still waiting to hear whether charities will qualify for the 75 per cent wage subsidy previously announced by the government.
“Seventy-five percent wage subsidies for small and medium businesses that may end up applying the charitable sector, would reduce the dependence and would offset the $10-billion requirement because there are many charitable organizations that would be able to access that,” she said. “We don’t know yet, it’s not been confirmed that charities would be eligible.”
She said they are also waiting to hear whether charities will be given greater access to credit.
“Staff helps, but it’s only one part of the challenge,” Nutt said.
The government announced on March 18 that it would provide an additional $75.5 million to address the needs of Canadians experiencing homelessness.
The government will also provide up to $50 million to women’s shelters and sexual assault centres, including facilities in Indigenous communities, to help with their capacity to manage or prevent an outbreak.
Trudeau said the government will also contribute $9 million through United Way Canada for local organizations that support practical services to Canadian seniors.
However, he conceded that there is “much more to do,” and acknowledged many charitable organizations are concerned about their capacity to do work as donations “dry up.”
He said the government is working closely with organizations and will have additional support from the federal government to announce “soon.”
“I want to recognize the incredible people who work and volunteer in their communities through these groups. I know it’s been hard lately, not just because more and more people need your help, but because you’re struggling to keep doing this work for marginalized and vulnerable people during a public health crisis on a scale that Canada has never before seen,” he said. “Soon, I’ll have more to say about how we can make sure you are supported and can help keep it helping Canadians who need it most.”
Trudeau also urged Canadians to donate to charities amid the crisis.
“If you’re fortunate enough to have a little extra to spare right now, I’m asking you to join in and be part of the solution,” he said.
“Please donate to your favourite organization, find out how you can volunteer in your community and even working from home.”
“You can make a real difference in the impact an organization can have as an individual, a family, a company. Think of how you can lend a hand to help others through this tough time.”