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As feds help businesses, charities seek help to keep services running

Last Updated Mar 30, 2020 at 11:36 am EDT

Fans attend a War Child Canada benefit concert held at the Forks in Winnipeg on Saturday Sept.16, 2000. Canada's charities say the layoffs have started and services, which are usually in high demand during economic downturns, are being shut down as the sector feels the financial sting from COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade

OTTAWA — Canada’s charities say they have begun laying off staff and their services, which are usually in high demand during economic downturns, are being shut down as the sector feels the financial sting from COVID-19.

Now the almost 86,000 registered charities in Canada are looking to the federal government to help, with multiple groups calling for immediate cash injections.

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

So far, federal financial aid for businesses has either not mentioned charities or has been offered in the form of loans that charities generally have difficulty getting for reasons that include a lack of collateral.

Bruce MacDonald, Imagine Canada’s chief executive, says in an interview that COVID-19 has laid open all the structural flaws in the charity sector and many groups don’t think they’ll be able to ride out the storm.

His and other groups are now asking the federal government to create a $10-billion fund to provide grants to charities, or immediately match private donations between now and Canada Day. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 30, 2020.

The Canadian Press