Statement by Hannah Bell, MLA Charlottetown-Belvedere and Official Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing on failure of PC government to release promised funding to Social Sector Community Partners Fund
In the spring sitting of the Legislature, the Official Opposition sought a significant funding commitment from the government to help non-profit community organizations who work with, and for, Islanders across the province. More than ever, government relies on the nonprofit community sector to do the heavy lifting of providing programs and services to many of the Island’s most vulnerable people.
It was wonderful to see government commit one million dollars for core operating funds to this sector in its budget presented June of this year. During the budget speech, the Minister of Finance acknowledged the importance of providing these funds when she said, “These organizations should be focused on the delivery of services and not on keeping their lights on.” (Hansard, 17 June 2020, pg. 2450)
However, it is now October and that money still has not gone out the government’s door.
Organizations doing critical community work desperately need cash to pay staff and cover basic costs. Often these funds were received from fundraisers, fees, and donations. However, COVID has had a major impact on the ability to raise these necessary funds. Yet, costs for programming and the delivery of services have not changed, and in some instances these costs have increased.
The Official Opposition has been pushing government all summer to make clear its commitments to the community sector. First, we were advised some funds would be provided in this fiscal year to meet core operational needs for only some organizations. However, we have since been briefed that any awarded funds are actually restricted or project based. This means the promised money cannot be used as and where the organization needs. In other words, these organizations now have to focus on keeping the lights on instead of delivering critical community services.
There are only six months left and counting in this fiscal year. Why is it so hard for government to provide trusted non-profit community organizations with enough funding to cover their basic operational costs?
Government’s promise made for a great statement in the House, but it seems that’s all it was – talk. It is well past time for government to take action, honour its commitments and pay its bills. If not, we will watch many in our communities fall through the gaps left when these organizations begin to fail. By then it will be too late to wonder why someone didn’t do something sooner.
Hannah Bell, MLA Charlottetown-Belvedere
Official Opposition Critic for Social Development and Housing