As many as 10 of New Brunswick’s 70 Royal Canadian Legion branches are at risk of permanently closing their doors after COVID-19 shutdowns cost them their revenue streams.
“It continues to be a hardship on the branches because they have no income coming in but the monthly bills are still there,” says Jack Clayton, Executive Director of the Royal Canadian Legion’s New Brunswick Command.
Legions in the province closed their doors just days before New Brunswick’s government ordered all non-essential businesses to do so.
Clayton says, unlike many of those businesses, branches do not qualify for most emergency subsidies offered by the Government of Canada.
“They also didn’t meet the criteria for the 75 per cent wage subsidies for workers,” he says, “because almost all the workers in a legion are volunteers.”
The majority of a branch’s income comes from fundraisers or on-site food/liquor sales.
Clayton said some had savings or investments, but many don’t or have already burned through.
“A lot of people think that the poppy campaign or the poppy fund can be used for this,” he says, “and that’s against the legion law.
“Poppy funds can not be used for the operation of the branch.”
With restrictions loosened as New Brunswick moves forward in its recovery plan, some branches reopened on Canada day – but only if they were able to meet public health requirements.
Clayton says branches in rural areas are often too small to allow for proper social distancing and those are the ones most at risk of permanently closing.
“That would be a blow, not only to the legionnaires but also to the communities themselves,” he says.
As of Thursday, 33 branches in the province have reopened.