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A coalition of Canadian charities is asking Ottawa for a $10-billion stabilization fund that would allow them to pay their staff and cover critical expenses amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

Without support, the sector will see mass layoffs that will hamper its ability to serve vulnerable populations, according to a letter signed by the leaders of 120 charities. Some charitable organizations face the threat of permanently closing, the coalition says.

“Our capacity to fundraise is facing the biggest threat that any of us have ever experienced or could ever have imagined," said Samantha Nutt, founder and president of War Child Canada.

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Dr. Samantha Nutt is the founder of War Child Canada.

Global efforts to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus through aggressive social-distancing measures have not only forced charities to cancel crucial fundraising events, but have also toppled stock markets and led to job losses.

That’s having a material impact on Canadian charities, Dr. Nutt said. The sector employs 1.4 million people, comprising 10 per cent of full-time jobs in Canada, according to a 2018 report by CanadaHelps, an organization aimed at increasing charitable giving.

“We are especially vulnerable. We rely on a strong economy and people’s capacity to give,” Dr. Nutt said.

To keep Canadians healthy, our governments must keep our charitable sector healthy

Charities face other hurdles, as well; they are required to spend the donations they receive on charitable activities, leaving them with low levels of financial reserves, and have trouble accessing credit from banks.

Lenders question the sector’s ability to repay loans because of their reliance on altruism, Dr. Nutt said, adding, “altruism doesn’t get you very far when you’re pleading with the bank."

The coalition – which includes United Way, the Canadian Cancer Society, YMCA, Kids Help Phone, Daily Bread Food Bank and Women’s Shelters Canada, among many others – is also asking for an increase in the Charitable Donation Tax Credit.

It’s also requesting loan guarantees to Canadian banks to ensure that charitable organizations have access to urgent and substantial low- or no-interest loans.

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Dr. Nutt said such assistance is critical because the pandemic and its economic fallout makes the services provided by charities, such as food banks and shelters, more vital than ever.

“More and more people are going to need those services … as more and more people face adversity,” Dr. Nutt said.

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