A group of leading Australian charities are urgently warning the federal government not to overlook the sector in its coronavirus response.
UPDATE: On Friday 27 March the NSW government announced its second stimulus package, which includes $10 million for charities and $6 million for Lifeline.
UPDATE: On Sunday 22 March the federal government announced economic support for approximately 30,000 not-for-profit organisations in the second round of measures in the Economic Response to Coronavirus. The government is providing up to $100,000 to eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and not‑for-profits (including charities) that employ people, with a minimum payment of $20,000. These payments will help businesses’ and not-for-profits’ cash flow so they can keep operating, pay their rent, electricity and other bills and retain staff.
Charities that provide vital frontline services are calling on the government for support in the coronavirus relief and economic stimulus package.
A proposal, sent to the federal government, highlights the implications to the welfare of millions of vulnerable Australians if urgent funding support is not given to the sector. It warns some charities are at risk of collapsing under the pressures of the current coronavirus crisis.
The joint submission was prepared by OzHarvest and supported by Foodbank, Youth off the Streets, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Beehive Industries and Father Bob Maguire Foundation. It echoes similar comments made by ACOSS, which is also calling for a stimulus package for the community sector.
Coronavirus putting charity sector under strain
OzHarvest Founder and CEO, Ronni Kahn AO, says the current stimulus package provides no financial assistance to the charity sector. This is despite the fact it employs over 1.3 million Australians, contributes to $150 billion to the economy and employs 10% of the workforce.
COVID-19 has put emergency and relief services charities at high risk of not being able to deliver
crucial services, due to operational difficulties and funding challenges. Yet demand will continue to
The submissions says the greatest areas in need of government support are those dealing directly with providing critical health services, mental health support, social and emergency services including food relief.
“Ironically, organisations like ours are the ones that hold up community spirit, provide critical food relief, mental health, wellbeing and disability support services and offers people dignity and respect in times of crisis,” says Kahn.
“With the current situation unfolding globally, millions of jobs are potentially at risk. Vital services are in desperate need of funding to be able to continue supporting vulnerable communities.”
“We can stop events. We can stop sporting matches. We can close schools. We can make changes in the way businesses operate. But we cannot stop feeding people.
“The knock-on effect of not being able to deliver food is huge.”
To put that in context, OzHarvest has rescued more than 56,000 meals from the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to date. The venue’s closure until April 16 will have a big impact on OzHarvest and the people who rely on the meals it provides.
There are already over five million people experiencing food insecurity, and this figure is constantly rising. With new families from drought and fire-affected communities and now those affected by coronavirus, food relief is needed more urgently than ever.