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More than 1,000 researchers have written to the federal government to call for direct investments of up to $28-million per month to help continue their work, saying a lack of immediate support would result in lasting impacts on health research in Canada.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, researchers who have partnered with the Health Charities Coalition of Canada say they have experienced a 50-per-cent drop in revenue due to COVID-19. The charities say fundraising efforts have been on hold in addition to the economic downturn affecting revenues.

HCCC advocates for public policy on health issues and promoting high-quality health research.

“Without immediate support, these setbacks will have lasting impacts on health research in Canada, affecting hundreds of researchers, undermining millions of dollars in investments already made, and contributing to poorer health outcomes for Canadians,” the letter said.

The letter outlines how health charities have taken significant steps to manage the financial crisis, such as by decreasing executive and staff salaries and layoffs.

“In spite of these efforts, health charities are still facing a major challenge to continue supporting life-changing health research,” the letter says.

“Many research institutions and centres rely heavily on funding from the charitable sector and anticipate devastating short-term and long-term consequences on Canadian health research as a whole if funding from charities is significantly reduced.”

The charities also say a disruption in research funding poses immediate challenges including that researchers and research projects will lose key personnel and that an erosion of expertise will result.

Certain projects and trials that have already started are now on hold, the letter states, adding they will not have the funds to continue.

Decisions made today will also affect the long-term outlook for Canadian health research, it adds, noting that the lack of funding will be felt deeply by young research that will also reduce the ability to attract and retain research talent.

A spokesman for Health Minister Patty Hajdu said Friday the government knows the COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for many employers.

Press secretary Cole Davidson pointed to a suite of assistance programs including the creation of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which is supporting nearly two million workers across Canada.

The CEWS covers 75 per cent of wages for employees of eligible employers, including non-profit organizations and registered charities.

“In addition, any non-profit or charity organization that is providing support to vulnerable populations whose programs and services have been disrupted by the COVID-19 crisis is eligible for the Emergency Community Support Fund,” Mr. Davidson said.

The government also announced $450-million in funding to help sustain Canada’s research excellence and to protect research talent, he added.

“This investment provides wage support to universities and health research institutes so they can retain staff while they may be facing reductions in funding from industry and philanthropy.”

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