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

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)
Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

Randy Brown, owner of Wintergreen Apartments on Fourth Avenue, has five trailers and a motorhome at the back of his property that he is renting to people who had been previously homeless. He wants to put 15 trailers on his property, hooked up to city sewer and water and BC Hydro. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Building owner digs in heels, refuses to remove illegal trailers from property

Port Alberni council gives owner two-week reprieve on remediation orders

A photo of the excavated area at McLean Mill at the end of the rail line, taken on Dec. 16, 2020. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
No environmental risk from oil spill at McLean Mill, says consultant

Terrawest Environmental concludes ‘end of spill’ report at national historic site

Melissa Martin from the Rollin Art Centre holds two paintings from the Rollin Art Centre’s permanent collection: an original portrait painted by the late Robert Aller, and a mixed media piece called ‘House’ from Peggy Larson that was part of Aller’s private collection. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Rollin Art Centre puts permanent collection on display

Works from Robert Aller, Arthur Lismer, Norval Morrisseau to be featured

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

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

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring has expressed his frustration with harassment of people who have made racist comments online about Cowichan Tribes in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak in the First Nation. (Citizen file)
Island mayor calls for de-escalation as social media gets uglier in racism fight

“Racism is wrong. But so is this kind of reaction”:

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said a lack of experienced crew members and the inability to detect navigational errors is what led to a Sooke search and rescue boat running aground in February 2019. (Twitter / @VicJRCC_CCCOS)
TSB: Sooke search and rescue boat crash caused by ‘misinterpretation of navigational information’

Crew members were lacking experience and unable to detect navigational errors

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Most Read