Community sector needs govt lifeline: “People’s lives depend on it”

Posted on 25 Mar 2020

By Lachlan Pollock, Our Community

Our Community has backed lobbying by the community sector’s peak body for the federal government to do more to help not-for-profits and charities survive the COVID-19 crisis.

In letters to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, the Community Council for Australia (CCA) has outlined seven critical actions the government must take to protect the sector and enable it to continue to respond to the pandemic.

Our Community managing director Denis Moriarty said, “To the government I ask: don’t stuff around. Back all seven measures now. People’s lives depend on it and we need to save our sector.”

The CCA has called on the federal government to:

Denis CIC19
Our Community managing director Denis Moriarty
  1. Offer more security to maintain programs and employment: Governments around Australia could increase security and help maintain the jobs of 1.2 million staff employed by charities if they guaranteed not to cut funding to charities over the next 12 months. The Victorian government has already done some of this, guaranteeing all its arts funding until 2021.
  2. Enable flexibility for charities to respond: Charities are at the front line, embedded in community, and are exceptionally well-placed to know what works to achieve a good outcome for their communities. In difficult times, government funded charities could be released from their narrow contractual obligations and enabled to respond as needed.
  3. Provide additional funding to meet additional demand: The growing need is going to overwhelm some charities without additional support – this includes in vital areas like food, shelter and health services. Direct increases in funding should be provided to front-line service providers, especially those already stretched providing support for bushfire communities and other high-needs groups.
  4. Offer wage subsidies and other bridging options: Trying to keep as many staff employed in the charities sector is a real challenge with income streams disappearing. Charities need access to cash flow to support employment in the same way as small to medium businesses. A wage subsidy (similar to the UK’s) and better access to government supported loans schemes and lines of credit would enable many more charities to retain staff.
  5. Offer tax incentives to encourage continued support of charities: Governments could encourage philanthropy by increasing the tax deduction for donations to registered charities to 150 % between now and June and then 75% from July to December. Businesses could be encouraged to deploy any staff services and resources that will be under-utilised in changed daily operations toward areas of social need by introducing a tax deduction of 100% for all pro-bono support or services businesses provided to registered charities for the next six months. Philanthropic support from our corporate partners could also be encouraged by increasing the tax deduction on donations from businesses to registered charities to 75% for the next six months.
  6. Provide support for adaptation in service delivery: The government could launch a digital rebate scheme to support registered charities as they shift their services online, develop and launch new forms of online support for Australians and support their volunteers and staff to work remotely.
  7. Extend support to all charities, big and small: All donations to legitimate charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission made in 2020 could be tax deductible.

“Our Community welcomes the recommendations to government set out by the CCA,” Mr Moriarty said.

“I don’t know what the sector would do without the CCA and the leadership of David Crosbie and Tim Costello at this time.”

Our Community’s own Save Our Sector campaign complements the work of the Commmunity Council for Australia in aiming to ensure the sector survives the COVID-19 crisis and can continue to provide vital social and community services.

Community organisations, not-for-profits and charities can find free information, tools, templates and other resources on the Save Our Sector webpage.

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