70 per cent of Ontario nonprofits unable to access pandemic relief

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COVID-19 government measures have failed to reach Ontario nonprofits and charities, with seven out of 10 organizations not receiving any provincial supports, and only 35% benefitting from federal programs. Almost two-thirds of nonprofits reported an increase in demand for programs and services, while half reported pandemic-related losses in revenue.

The new data comes from a bilingual survey conducted by L’Assemblée de la francophonie de l’Ontario (AFO) and the Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) to understand the impact of the pandemic on the nonprofit sector one year after the crisis began, with nearly 3,000 nonprofit organizations responding.

Rural, remote and Northern nonprofits were especially impacted. More than one third of these organizations have budgets under $500,000.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has not just been financial, with 61 per cent of nonprofits having lost volunteers since the beginning of the pandemic. Faith groups, arts, and sports groups were among the most affected.

“This is a critical opportunity for governments to invest now. Nonprofits will play a central role in rebuilding and recovery. We are seeing collaboration, new ideas and emerging technologies by organizations. But we are coming to an enormous cliff this year, and so far there is no bridge after existing programs, like the wage subsidy, end”, said Cathy Taylor, executive director of ONN.

The good news: nonprofits have gotten creative to continue serving communities, such as repurposing kitchens for mobile food programs, using telephone trees to reach isolated seniors, providing pre-loaded phones with wellness supports for Indigenous youth, and much more.

“With the province moving into step three, Ontarians will expect nonprofits to be there – from minor sports and recreational programs, to seniors drop-ins, to arts programs and much more. We know needs will continue to grow, such as health and social services and mental health supports,” said Ms. Taylor.

The survey report includes six policy recommendations:

  • Offer a new round of Small Business and Nonprofit Grants, echoing the call by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce
  • Ensure recovery efforts focus on organizations and communities that need the most support
  • Introduce a broad-based microgrant program for volunteer-only nonprofits to help those organizations largely left out of government measures which focused on those with paid workers.
  • Target new funds to nonprofits and grassroots groups serving communities that suffered the most during the pandemic, including Black and other racialized communities; First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities.
  • Provide permanent sick days by amending the Employment Standards Act.
  • Continue to invest in and increase access to high-speed internet.
  • Extend the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).

As a sector, Ontario nonprofits receive less than half of their revenue from governments, which means they can leverage these public investments – via business activities, donations, and volunteer contributions – into programs and services that directly benefit the people of Ontario.

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