Allen, Hodge sound alarm about increased pressures, decreased resourcesJanuary 13, 2021
Belleville, ON – On Monday leaders of YMCA CEO and United Way Hastings & Prince Edward issued a joint letter to Member of Parliament, Neil Ellis asking for his help to protect the capacity of the human service sector in the months ahead.
David Allen, President & CEO of YMCA Central East Ontario, and Brandi Hodge, Executive Director of United Way Hastings & Prince Edward are joining their national counterparts in sounding the alarm about the increased pressures and decreased resources for a sector that is critical to the social safety net in both Hastings County and Prince Edward County.
Jointly, they are asking for Ellis’ support of two policy solutions being proposed by a collaboration of United Way Centraide Canada, YMCA Canada, YWCA Canada, Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada and Boys & Girls Clubs of Canada to create a Community Services COVID-19 Relief Fund, a temporary bridge funding program to support critical human and community services, and; 2) to implement a philanthropic match program. As a temporary program, CSCRF would be a vital component of Canada’s pandemic response and recovery; preserving critical services and social and physical infrastructure and contributing to service transformation in order to build back better.
“Our YMCA has felt the drastic financial strain of COVID-19,” states David Allen, President & CEO of YMCA Central East Ontario, “while our facilities were closed for over 5 months, the YMCA of Central East Ontario worked tirelessly through this pandemic to support our communities. We provided emergency services such as childcare and summer day camps to support essential service workers and operated the Belleville YMCA emergency isolation centre.”
The YMCA adapted in order to deliver online programming and supports through YMCAhome.ca to keep community members active and connected; they enhanced safety in facilities, increased sanitization, barriers, procedures, personal protective equipment and infrastructure upgrades. “We have invested in the safety of our community, staff and volunteers so that we can all stay connected, but we cannot do this alone.” says Allen
United Way Hastings & Prince Edward is nearing the end of the 2020 fundraising campaign. “The community we live in is an incredibly generous one and everyone has done what they can, but it has been a challenging year.” states Brandi Hodge, Executive Director of United Way Hastings & Prince Edward. “With three cancelled events, a decline in individual giving and 40+ agencies who have been unable to fundraise on their own behalf the pressures are many for our whole sector.”
During the first phase of the pandemic, United Way HPE, for the first time, became direct service providers, filling gaps in the community for seniors who were mandated to stay home where it was safe. During a time that has been so precarious, the not-for-profit sector quickly, efficiently and quietly went to work. Teams of staff and volunteers were mobilized, gaps were quickly identified and closed, mandates were stretched; flexibility, innovation and creativity were amplified. “I truly believe that our health sector was able to focus on the health crisis because our social sector was focused on the social crisis.” says Hodge. “Much of that work was and is enabled by United Way donors but with a projected 37% of Canadians decreasing charitable giving (Angus Reid Institute), and significant, demonstrated increases in need, this pace of work for the sector is not sustainable.”
“The not-for-profit and charitable sector are clearly indicating that the pressures this pandemic is placing on their human resources is significant,” states both Hodge and Allen, “the capacity of the whole sector is at risk if the appropriate resources are not readily available to support their needs.”
Local 211 referral calls between March – June increased by 360% for food assistance and meal program referrals over the same period last year; local 211 calls for income support and referrals increased by over 200% and a local mental health crisis intervention centre has reported an increase of 38% in call volume since the start of the pandemic.
The federal pandemic relief programs, including The Emergency Community Support Fund, New Horizons for Seniors Fund and Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy have enabled the service sector to provide vital services during this current fiscal year, but despite these measures, the sector continues to be negatively affected by rising costs and diminishing revenues and as a result their capacity to serve our communities in the future is uncertain.
As the second wave of this pandemic rises with the impacts to be felt for months and years to come, stabilizing the community service sector will be essential for future recovery and building back better. 1 in 5 charities and nonprofits report they may not survive the pandemic while some closures have already occurred. The community and human services sector employs 2.4 million people with a labour force comprised of approximately 70% women; they contribute 8.5% to Canada’s GDP.