More support needed for charities affected by COVID-19 says Cardus

Christian think talk renews call for more support for charities amid range of provincial and federal COVID-19 support programs

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A funding support program for charities announced in Alberta should be copied across the country as a way to help non-profits weather the economic storm that the COVID-19 pandemic has created, a religious think tank says.

Cardus, a Christian think tank based in Ontario, is calling on the federal and provincial governments to match donations made to charity organizations on a one-to-one basis, a move that Alberta has taken – although Alberta’s program caps the amount of money the province would match at $2 million.

Cardus had previously released a suggested $2.5-billion-action plan for governments and Canadians to help support the charity and non-profit sectors on March 23. One aspect of that action plan was a call for governments to match donations to charities made during the economic shutdown of the country when Canadian governments mandated the closing of all but essential services.

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Cardus renewed its call for the federal and Ontario governments to set up such a one-for-one donation matching program on April 15 after Alberta became the first province to officially announce such a program.

“Can Ontario and the federal government match Alberta’s pace in helping charities through the COVID-19 crisis?” an April 15 Cardus press release asked.

“Alberta is first out of the gate to heed Cardus’s call to action for a pandemic charity rescue plan by setting up its own 1:1 donation matching program. Ontario and the federal government have yet to respond,” the Cardus release said.

“It’s time for Ontario and the federal government to step up,” said Brian Dijkema, vice-president of external affairs at Cardus.

History shows that during past difficult economic times, the charity sector has suffered extreme financial hardship Dijkema and Sean Speer, assistant professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs, said in a policy brief to the C.D. Howe Institute.

“Canadian charities may see financial losses this year of between $9.5 billion and $15.7 billion, according to one estimate, and may have to lay off between 118,000 and 194,000 workers,” according to the brief by Dijkema and Speer.

While all governments across Canada have announced various support programs for Canadian workers, direct help to charities by matching donations is needed, according to Cardus.

“While federal wage subsidies are important and can help keep charity staff employed, they don’t help with charities’ operational funding needs,” the April 15 Cardus press release said.

“Cardus’s call for a 1:1 donation matching program, shared among provincial and federal governments, is an accountable, equitable way to meet this need quickly and with the least administrative burden, while keeping charities’ donor bases active until the pandemic is over.”

Alberta’s donation matching program is not a straight one-for one program as Cardus is calling for.

“The Government of Alberta will match up to a maximum of $2 million dollars for funds raised by the designated organizations. Matching amounts depend on the collective amount raised,” a statement on the Alberta government’s website said. “For example, if the funders collectively raise $10 million dollars, each organization would receive 20 cents on the dollar based on the $2 million government matching commitment.”

While charities and non-profits can access up to a 75 per cent wage subsidy, be eligible for loan supports, and specific funding to help some services for seniors, women, the homeless and food banks has been announced by the federal government, the office of federal Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen did not respond by the Canadian Catholic News’ deadline on the specific issue of federal donation matching funds for charities.