Federal government pledges $350M to help charities during pandemic

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a $350 million plan to help charities and not-for-profit agencies that are spread thin because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on those organizations because more people need help,” Trudeau said during his daily news conference. “For example, back in March, one United Way partner in Winnipeg made and distributed 1,475 emergency kits for families, seniors and homeless people in just five days.”

Trudeau said the money will go to small organizations – and larger ones like the Red Cross.

“This is money for things like training volunteers, increasing at-home deliveries for seniors or driving people with disabilities to appointments,” the prime minister said.

“With this fund, we’re giving more resources to charities and non-profits so they can adapt to the new realities and difficulties brought on by the pandemic.”

Charities have seen a severe drop in donations since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, with donors hurting financially themselves and the organizations unable to hold fundraising events.

Much of the money will flow through three national groups to help the country’s 86,000 registered charities deal with initial impacts of the pandemic, with a portion of funds going to small, independent organizations.

Trudeau says charities and non-profits are doing tremendous work to meet tremendous demand for their services.

He says the money will be used for, among other things, helping train volunteers, transportation for vulnerable people and home delivery of groceries and other services

Estimates from Imagine Canada, a charity that promotes the work other charities do, suggest donations will decline between $4.2 billion and $6.3 billion, and that between 117,000 and 195,000 workers could be laid off depending on the length of the COVID-19 crisis.

The federal pledge falls short of the $10 billion charities had been asking for as a stabilization fund, but many are expected to access a wage subsidy program to help hire back laid-off staff.

Trudeau says online applications for that 75-per-cent wage subsidy program will open Apr. 27.

Federal officials told the House of Commons finance committee last week that they expect to process 90 per cent of applications by the first week of May, at which point payments will begin flowing.

Trudeau says the Canada Revenue Agency is setting up a calculator so employers can see how much they can expect to receive from the wage-subsidy program, which will provide up to $847 per employee per week.

Ahmed Hussan, the minister of Families, Children and Social Development said a number of organizations will receive aid money.

“This money will help groups like those in Eastern Ontario that are working to provide meals to those who cannot leave their homes, who are not able to do that. It can also help organizations such as the Atlantic Compassion Fund or the Vancouver Foundation which is providing much needed support to woman who are fleeing domestic violence.” 12:27:48:00

Addressing the food supply

Federal officials also tried to reassure the public that food suppliers will prioritize Canadian markets over exports.

“The food processing industry has been very pro-active about being really clear that the priority will be to support and supply Canadian consumers,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

There are concerns after the Cargill meat processing plant in Alberta closed because of hundreds of sick workers – one who died.

“We are not at this point anticipating shortages of beef, but prices might go up,” Trudeau said.

With files from the Canadian Press

Host/Producer Nation to Nation - Ottawa

Todd Lamirande is a member of the Métis Nation. He’s the Host/Producer of APTN’s political show, Nation to Nation. Todd first joined APTN in 2000 as a video journalist. He then anchored APTN National News for 2 years and moved on to host APTN Investigates for 5 seasons.