Okanagan legion branches weather COVID-19 crisis

Click to play video 'Royal Canadian Legion branches struggle' Royal Canadian Legion branches struggle
Royal Canadian Legion branches struggle – Jul 6, 2020
“Memoriam, Eorum, Retinebimus” are the words on The Royal Canadian Legion’s logo.
It’s a written promise in Latin to those who served our country. Translated into English, it means, “we will remember them.”
But for some legions across the country, COVID-19 is threatening that promise.

READ MORE: COVID-19 closures leave New Brunswick legions in dire straits

“Nationally, 124 of our 1,381 branches across the country, so almost one in 10, are facing imminent closure,” said The Royal Canadian Legion’s communications manager, Nujma Bond.

It seems that having to pay bills for almost three months with no income has taken its toll some Canadian legion branches.

“Beyond that number, another 357 of them are in financial difficulty,” Bond said.
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But despite the dire financial situations that some Legions find themselves in, there is emergency funding available for them through the Canada Emergency Business Account.
Click to play video 'Maritime Royal Canadian legion branches hit hard during pandemic' Maritime Royal Canadian legion branches hit hard during pandemic
Maritime Royal Canadian legion branches hit hard during pandemic – Jul 2, 2020
“You get up to $40,000 and you have, I believe, two years to pay it back,” said Anne Fox, president of Legion branch 288 in West Kelowna.
“And if you do that, you get $10,000 free, so you only have to pay back $30,000,” Fox added.
Without the Canada Emergency Business Account or CEBA loan, Fox says the West Kelowna Legion’s financial reality would be drastically different.
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“We would be running on empty trying to figure out how to pay our bills,” said Fox.
“It could have devastated us,” said Jean Saul, president of branch 69 in Peachland.
“We did have money in the bank but we did apply for the CEBA,” Saul said.
The loan stopped the branch from having to drain their bank account to pay ongoing bills.
“Once you start dipping into that, it’s a constant dip and if you keep dipping, then before you know it, you’re done,” Saul said.
In Kelowna, the 700-member strong branch 26 was actually able to weather the impact of COVID-19 without accessing emergency funding.
However, according to president John Sokolowski, branch 26 will face financial problems
“If indeed the next wave of COVID comes along in the fall, that will be a real challenge,” Sokolowski told Global News Monday.
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For their part, The Royal Canadian Legion has asked the federal government for more immediate financial relief.
Bond said she is hopeful that something is in the works with Veterans Affairs.

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