Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Winnie Byanyima, director general of Oxfam International, at the World Economic Forum Tuesday, January 23, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Winnie Byanyima, director general of Oxfam International, at the World Economic Forum Tuesday, January 23, 2018 in Davos, Switzerland. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Groups that help vulnerable women ask Liberals for lifeline after losing out on aid

About half of the 117 groups involved in the report say they had to reduce service offerings

Groups that offer services to vulnerable women across the country say they were shut out from federal pandemic aid and now face an uncertain future.

A report this morning from a coalition of women’s rights organizations suggests the pandemic has led to a steep cut in the services groups provide.

About half of the 117 groups involved in the report say they had to reduce service offerings or cancel programs outright when the pandemic hit.

And about two-fifths say they weren’t able to access federal aid, either because eligibility criteria didn’t account for their unique funding models or because the groups themselves lacked the capacity to fill out applications.

As a result, groups now face the prospect of being unable to use existing funds to help cover increased costs from COVID-19 while potentially losing out on future funding because they aren’t offering as many services as they used to.

It’s why the organizations involved are asking the Trudeau Liberals to create a specific funding stream now so they aren’t forced to close in the coming months.

“Not only are women experiencing all these challenges across the country, but the organizations that are deeply focused on supporting them, they’re also at risk,” said Anjum Sultana, national director of public policy for YWCA Canada.

“The fear now is that whatever social safety net many of the women we’re serving had, that may also disappear.”

When COVID-19 struck, many in-person services had to stop, meaning groups weren’t able to offer their usual counselling, employment and skills-training services, often on shoestring budgets.

Most employees at these small and medium-sized non-profits and charities are women. They, like many women, had to care for children at home and that in turn further strained resources.

“It didn’t take very long for us to start seeing these cracks almost immediately,” said Jackie Neapole, executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women.

The report attaches data and details to the anecdotal stories federal officials heard through the spring.

Eligibility criteria for programs like the wage subsidy required a decline in revenue that some groups couldn’t show because of the project-based nature of their financing.

Funding flows as projects or programs meet certain targets, with specific rules on how dollars can be spent.

Groups were unable to spend the money they had, nor were they able to quickly revise their programming, said Diana Sarosi, director of policy and campaigns at Oxfam Canada.

“If they can’t move ahead with their programming, or the costs that are involved in it are very different now, it makes it difficult for them to get the next tranche of money or it’s going to be cut down,” she said.

“That, again, causes a lot of financial insecurity for them moving forward.”

The report recommends the government quickly set aside an easily accessible pool of funding for these groups to help cover overhead and essential operating costs. It also calls on the government to help groups digitize their services since many weren’t easily able to.

Neapole said she was concerned her organization could collapse without some change in government help, much like other organizations in the sector.

She said a point of optimism is the federal promise of a task force on women in the economy to help a group disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“Valuable expertise and knowledge and analysis from the women’s movement will be a key to that task force’s success, but only if we have the capacity to meaningfully participate,” Neapole said.

“And we’re only going to be able to do that if we’re not devastated financially.”

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Nelson Police responded to 802 calls last year they say had an element of mental health. File photo
Nelson Police: 802 mental-health related calls in 2020

That accounts for 12 per cent of total calls for service

Several large trees came down in the recent windstorm and destroyed a part of the building that houses Camp Koolaree’s showers and boy’s washroom. The camp has served generations of Kootenay families since 1931 as the Nelson area’s longest running children’s summer camp. Photo: Submitted
Camp Koolaree’s wash house destroyed by January windstorms

The camp is in need of donations to make repairs

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Volunteer firefighters from Grand Forks Fire/Rescue head towards the scene of fatal car crash near Gibbs Creek Road, below Highway 3, Thursday evening, Jan. 21. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Motorist dies in Highway 3 crash west of Grand Forks

City first responders were called to the scene Thursday evening, Jan. 21

Vancouver Giants defenceman Bowen Byram could be playing for Colorado when the NHL resumes play. (Rik Fedyck/file)
Cranbrook product Bowen Byram makes NHL debut with Avalanche

Highly touted prospect marks first pro game following World Junior tournament in Alberta

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Most Read