Trudeau announces $350M support fund for community groups helping vulnerable people

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced $350 million in emergency funds for community groups and national charities that help seniors, the homeless and others made more vulnerable by the pandemic.

Emergency funding will help charities assist the growing number of people affected by pandemic

Camille Wenner, executive director of Congregation Schara Tzedeck, is pictured taking part in a Passover meal delivery service for vulnerable and physically distanced seniors in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today announced $350 million in emergency funds for community groups and national charities that help seniors, the homeless and others made more vulnerable by the pandemic.

Trudeau said these organizations are struggling to help more and more people due to the global pandemic. The funds will support community groups through national organizations such as the United Way Canada, the Canadian Red Cross and the Community Foundations of Canada.

"Their mission has always been to help people in their time of need and that hasn't changed," Trudeau said this morning. "But COVID-19 is putting a tremendous amount of pressure on those organizations because more people need help."

The funds will support such activities as:

  • Volunteer-based home delivery of groceries and medications.
  • Transportation services, such as those driving seniors or persons with disabilities to appointments.
  • Scaling up help lines that provide information and support.
  • Helping vulnerable Canadians access government benefits.
  • Delivering training and supplies to volunteers.
  • Replacing in-person, one-on-one contact and social gatherings with virtual contact through telephone, texts, teleconferences or the Internet.

Families, Children and Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said COVID-19 has had a profound impact on vulnerable Canadians such as seniors, people with disabilities and racialized people. Charitable groups have been strained by the rise in demand for their services while they face new expenses such as purchases of protective gear.

Drop in donations, rise in demand

"At a time when Canadian charities and non-profit organizations are being asked to do more for Canadians who need their services, they're seeing a drop in donations and a drop in the number of volunteers that they can rely on," he said.

The Canadian Red Cross said it will work to disburse funding as quickly as possible in communities across the country.

"Together, we will work to ensure that rapid relief reaches those that need it most, and that no one is left behind," the charity said in a statement. "The new fund will provide a much-needed boost to organizations on the front lines, while we also continue our efforts to secure the funding and support required for the stabilization and recovery phases ahead."

Conservative families, children and social development critic Stephanie Kusie said today's announcement can't make up for the "dramatic decline" in the donations on which charities rely. She repeated the Conservatives' call for a temporary increase in the charitable donation tax credit for 2020.

The move would help drive charitable donations to hospitals, churches, food banks, women's shelters and other organizations, she said.

The Conservatives also want the government to remove the capital gains tax on charitable donations of private company shares and real estate.

"While many businesses are struggling, some are still thriving and should be encouraged to support the charitable sector," she said in a statement.

Call for Canada to match donations dollar-for-dollar

Brian Dijkema of the Christian-based policy organization Cardus said the program announced today will help many community groups, while others will receive no government assistance. 

He said a dollar-for-dollar matching program would be more equitable and easier to administer.

"As the government crafts the next stages of support for the most vulnerable in Canada, it should pursue a matching model that leverages its financial capacity to encourage all Canadians to support their fellow citizens," he said.

Trudeau also announced today that employers can now use a calculator on the Canada Revenue Agency website to figure out how much they're eligible for through the wage subsidy program.

Businesses, non-profits and charities can begin applying for the 75 per cent wage subsidy on Monday, April 27. The subsidy covers up to $847 a week per employee.

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