COVID-19 Resources and Support for Van East NGOs

Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Chair
Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

March 23, 2020

Open Letter: Resources and Support Needed for Vancouver East Non-Profits

To Deputy Prime Minister Freeland,

I am writing with regards to an urgent need for direction and resources for non-profit organizations in my riding, some of whom have reached out to my office directly expressing dire needs. As you may know, Vancouver East is home to one of the highest number of non-profit organizations per capita of any ridings in Canada. Many of these non-profits provide essential services that have enormous health impacts for the community. Some of these services include, but are not limited to, housing provision, food security, home support services, overdose prevention, mental health support, urban Indigenous programs and services, seniors’ and youth services, support for victims of domestic violence and abuse, and others.

Because of the importance of these services to the community members who count on them, many of these organizations are continuing to deliver these essential services despite the pandemic and the risks and challenges involved. In fact, many are trying to step up services, such as offering grocery deliveries for seniors isolated at home, to meet the emerging needs of the community. In order to do so, many of these organizations need urgent support and resources from the government, and it is vital that we step up to meet their efforts.

Many organizations are in desperate need of safety equipment such as face masks, protective eye goggles, and for those working in very high risk situations, protective suits. Sanitation equipment and supplies are also needed, including paper towels, hand sanitizer, hand soap, and alcohol wipes.

Organizations need tents and equipment to better enable people in observing the social distancing requirements. Measures as such the installation of handwashing stations in parks and other outdoor spaces are also desperately needed. For sought after equipment like face masks, even if organizations have the monetary resources, they are unable to acquire them because they are sold out everywhere. A coordinated effort by the government is needed to get the actual items and equipment to frontline workers to keep people safe.

Food security is another important priority for my riding. Many organizations who provide food to the community are trying to adapt to take-out and delivery models to meet community food needs in a safe way. Those organizations need take out containers, utensils and paper bags, or the funds to cover these additional costs of providing food to the community.

From a funding perspective, some organizations require additional funds to increase or maintain current service levels and to adapt their services to meet changing community needs. Extra funds need to be available to provide sick pay, overtime pay, and hazard pay for workers working in high risk situations. Organizations need flexibility to use their current grants and funding to adapt their services and programs as they address the COVID-19 pandemic.

While government announcements are made daily with regard to new funding and new supports available to non-profits, in my communication with frontline workers and organizations, it seems that many are not receiving clear or any direction on how to access these supports and where they can go to seek support and direction. Many organizations do not even know where they can refer people with flu symptoms to when they seek support and services.

All organizations need to be able to communicate in a direct and timely manner with government authorities so that a coordinated effort to deliver the needed funds, information, resources and supplies can be made to ensure that the organizations supporting the community in these trying times are themselves supported. This is vital to ensure that the services that keep our communities healthy and safe are able to continue. In order to meet the needs of the community, not only do we need to be able to provide the necessary resources to our non-profits, but we need an effective communication strategy to coordinate the resources and deliver vital information.

As always, my office is available to assist in any way possible to achieve this.

I thank you for all your efforts during these trying times.


Jenny Kwan
Member of Parliament for Vancouver East

Cc: The Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos
The Hon. Navdeep Singh Bains
The Hon. William Sterling Blair
The Hon. Patricia Hajdu
The Hon. Mélanie Joly
The Hon. William Francis Morneau
The Hon. Carla Qualtrough
The Honourable Kirsty Duncan

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