03/26/2020 14:55 EDT | Updated 03/27/2020 06:11 EDT

Charities That Help Millions Of Canadians Warn They Won't Survive COVID-19

The United Way, UNICEF, YMCA and Kids Help Phone are among the groups asking for federal aid.

Staff at the Greater Vancouver Food Bank prepare food in Burnaby, British Columbia on March 18, 2020.

TORONTO — More than 100 of Canada’s top charities are lobbying the federal government for financial aid to avoid “irreparable damage” and collapse during the novel coronavirus pandemic

The United Way, YMCA, Kids Help Phone, Women’s Shelters Canada and Daily Bread Foodbank are among the more than 140 charities that signed a letter addressed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers Wednesday, calling for a $10-billion emergency stabilization fund. 

“The COVID-19 crisis and the resulting economic fallout is threatening to quickly destroy Canada’s charitable sector,” said the letter

“Without immediate support from the Government of Canada, most Canadian charities will be forced to lay off substantial numbers of employees, will no longer be able to support vulnerable people and communities, and many will face a significant likelihood of total and permanent closure.”

The Prime Minister’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michael Kovac/Getty Images
Dr. Samantha Nutt speaks onstage during the Good For A Laugh Comedy Benefit in support of children affected by war on March 1, 2019 in Los Angeles. Similar fundraising events planned for this spring must be cancelled in response to COVID-19. 

Charities rely on donations, which are drying up as Canada sees layoffs and business closures, and physical distancing measures make in-person fundraising events impossible, said Dr. Samantha Nutt, founder of War Child Canada and the Emergency Coalition of Canadian Charities initiative. 

The Canadian Cancer Society, for example, has paused its daffodil campaign that deploys volunteers across the country every year to sell flowers and pins and host events and galas in order to raise millions of dollars. 

“We survive on donations and the efforts of volunteers in the community, all of which are being drastically curtailed through the pandemic,” said Canadian Cancer Society CEO Andrea Seale in a statement. “Charities are too important to the fabric of Canada to be forgotten during this crisis.”

 Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promises economic help during pandemic. Story continues below. 

Charities, which operate on thin budgets at the best of times, are also facing an increased demand for shelter, food, and mental health support and. 

“Our work will be critical to maintaining the social cohesion necessary for the fight against COVID-19 and the survival of Canadians and communities everywhere as we confront this enormous crisis together,” the letter said. 

The federal government passed emergency measures Wednesday, which includes $2,000 a month for Canadians who cannot work due to the COVID-19 crisis,such as being laid off. Small and medium-sized businesses, which includes registered charities, are eligible for a subsidy of up to $25,000, according to the Canadian Revenue Agency

Provinces are also offering help. Earlier this week, Ontario announced a $200-million investment for social services including shelters, food banks, emergency services and non-profit organizations. 

That’s simply not enough to keep Canada’s charities afloat, said Nutt. 

Along with a $10-billion fund, charities are asking the federal government to assist them in securing short-term, low or no-interest loans through banks and boost the charitable donation tax credit from 50 per cent to 75 per cent. 

We’ve never needed people more than we do now. And people have never needed us more than now.

They also want governments to honour pre-approved grants, even if charities can’t offer all promised programs due to public health restrictions. For example, YMCA locations have had to cancel or close child care, health and fitness programs as well as employment and immigrant centres. 

Nutt is asking Canadians to consider donating to a charity that has touched their lives. 

“We’ve never needed people more than we do now,” said Nutt. “And people have never needed us more than now.”