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

Firefighters respond to a fire on Heatherly Road in Colwood Jan. 19. (Photo courtesy of View Royal Fire Rescue)
December and January, so far, have seen their share of rain. (Black Press Media file photo)
Potential for snow in Greater Victoria after unusually wet December, January

Winter is on the way, says Environment and Climate Change Canada

Local MP Elizabeth May says the federal government needs to revise its rules around allowing freighters to anchor in and around the Gulf Islands. (Black Press Media File)
MP Elizabeth May promises to press new transportation minister on issues important to Vancouver Island

Key issues include anchoring freightes, southern resident killer whales and fate of local bus line

Victoria police say the number of business break and enters in the city has been rising for the last four months. (Twitter/VicPD)
Business break and enters on the rise in Victoria

Sophisticated techniques used to defeat alarm systems, police say

Stair care in Colwood
Colwood Coun. Michael Baxter says Latoria Creek Park is now more enjoyable and safe to take a stroll through due to the latest upgrades completed on the staircase. Four long sets of nature stairs now include slip-proof metal steps. The elevated staircase also allows for better air flow to slow the rotting process, and metal handrails to prevent splinters. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Colwood unveils massive upgrade to popular park staircase

Upgrades include slip-proof metal steps, metal handrails and raised design

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry prepares a daily update on the coronavirus pandemic, April 21, 2020. (B.C. Government)
B.C. adjusts COVID-19 vaccine rollout for delivery slowdown

Daily cases decline over weekend, 31 more deaths

B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training announced funding to train community mental health workers at four B.C. post-secondary institutions. (Stock photo)
B.C. funding training of mental health workers at four post-secondary institutions

Provincial government says pandemic has intensified need for mental health supports

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Egg producers in B.C. aren’t obligated to reveal their production sites. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Officials say there’s not enough Vancouver Island eggs to meet demand

BC Egg Marketing Board doesn’t regulate labelling, supply needed from off-Island

A Courtenay resident labours to remove the snow build-up from around her car in February 2019. The area may see snow throughout the coming weekend. Black Press file photo
Snow, winter might not be done with Vancouver Island quite yet

Flurries, snow and cold temps predicted for the weekend for mid-Island

An elk got his antlers caught up in a zip line in Youbou over the weekend. (Conservation Officer Service Photo)
Elk rescued from zip line in Youbou on Vancouver Island

Officials urge people to manage items on their property that can hurt animals

Most Read