Charities and non-profits need federal emergency wage subsidy immediately to avoid crisis

April 3, 2020

(VANCOUVER) Canadian charities and non-profit organizations should immediately qualify for the new Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program or they’ll be forced into crisis, say Shannon Daub, Director of the CCPA-BC and Alison Brewin, Executive Director of Vantage Point, an organization that provides support, training and networking for non-profit organizations in BC. 

Daub and Brewin are referring to the new federal wage subsidy program that will cover 75 per cent of wages for employers hit by the COVID-19 crisis, specifically those who’ve seen a 30 per cent drop in revenues compared to this time last year. The program is available to charities and non-profits, but they must also demonstrate a 30 per cent drop in revenues to qualify.

“Relief should be extended to non-profits and charities proactively, before they are forced to lay off staff, abandon leases or even shutter permanently,” says Daub. 

“Non-profits and charities are on the frontlines of our COVID response and communities across the nation need us to keep staff and keep services going, including coordinating volunteers in safe and most meaningful ways,” says Brewin.

“In addition to providing direct services, charities and non-profits also play an essential advocacy role, highlighting and seeking to address many of the inequities and gaps in our social safety net that have become so glaring in recent weeks as the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” says Daub. “Charities and non-profits are also the engine that keeps whole sectors of our economy—like the arts—alive.”

Daub notes that most charities and non-profits are not primarily in the business of selling goods or services. Their revenues typically arrive at key points in the year in response to fundraising appeals and events, membership fees, grants from institutional funders (including governments and foundations), and business sponsorships. 

“Requiring them to show a 30 per cent drop in gross revenues for the month of March 2020 compared to March 2019 in order to access the federal wage subsidy doesn’t make sense,” she explained.  

Some organizations have already seen a revenue decline of at least 30 per cent while for others it is likely to happen more gradually or later in the year as the economic disruption from COVID-19 leads to reduced donations, cancelled annual events and campaigns, plummeting earnings on funds held by grantmakers and tightened business sponsorship budgets, says Daub.   

Unique challenges for charities and non-profits also include not carrying significant cash reserves, inability to access loans or lines of credit, and significant reliance on volunteer labour at a time when physical distancing is essential.  

“Given the realities facing the sector, it is inappropriate to subject charities and non-profits to the same eligibility test as corporations like banks, airlines and others,” says Daub. “The federal government has implied that some fine-tuning of the eligibility threshold is in progress, but it doesn't sound like waiving the threshold altogether is under active consideration, which we believe is necessary. ” 

For more information and to arrange interviews please contact Jean Kavanagh, 604-802-5729, [email protected]