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 Chilliwack driver’s vehicle was impounded for seven days after an excessive speeding violation. (RCMP photo)
RCMP catch Chilliwack driver doing 60 km/h over posted speed limit

The motorist was hit with a big ticket and a seven day vehicle impoundment

Glenwood Seniors Community is the second long term care home in Agassiz to have a COVID-19 outbreak. (Google Maps)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Glenwood Seniors Community in Agassiz

The long term care home is the second of Agassiz’s three facilities to have an outbreak

UFV assistant kinesiology professor Dr. Iris Lesser exercises along Chilliwack's Vedder Rotary Trail with her daughter Kaia. (UFV photo)
UFV study finds women with reduced physical activity had more mental health struggles during COVID pandemic

The study suggested women suffered more than men as gyms, parks and playgrounds shut down

The section of Princess Avenue from Young Road to Nowell Street, seen here on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, will be converted to one-way traffic to help increase parking in the area. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack council opts to convert downtown street to one-way traffic to create parking

Council voted to start with Princess Avenue, holding off on converting Victoria Avenue until later

Uber Eats has announced that it is now delivering food orders in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. (Submitted photo by Justin Walker)
Uber Eats announces expansion into Chilliwack

Food-delivery company is starting with 60 local restaurants

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

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

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Most Read