Royal Canadian Legion Requests Emergency Funding
Businesses aren’t the only ones to have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, many community based non-profit organizations have been struggling to stay afloat, including the Royal Canadian Legion.
It is estimated that one in 10 Legion branches face closure in the coming months unless there is some sort of intervention in the coming months. That message has been echoed on a local, provincial and national level.
For the past month and a half, the Royal Canadian Legion has been asking for emergency funding from the federal and provincial governments to help them pay some of their bills, to keep their doors open.
According to Nujma Bond, Communications Manager at the Royal Canadian Legion National Headquarters in Ottawa, said there are a total of 1,381 branches nationwide. Of these, 357 are in financial difficulty at this time.
“Legion Branches are a first line of help and support for Veterans and other community members. They are a source of camaraderie, they hold events and support community initiatives. They are often the hub of their community, especially in smaller centers. For now, many Branches are turning to non-traditional ways to raise funds in order to keep the lights on, from bottle drives to Go-Fund-Me initiatives.
Unfortunately, we understand Branches do not qualify for the government’s Emergency Community Support Fund unless it’s for a COVID-19 related project. The funding cannot help them with overall operational costs such as paying utility bills, and that’s where the need is currently greatest. Some Branches have qualified for funding in the form of a loan via the Canada Emergency Business Account. It will certainly help in the short term however most of it will have to be paid back which could be a long-term challenge if Branch operations don’t get back to normal.
It’s important to understand that funds raised during the National Poppy Campaign in November cannot be used for Branch operations. Those funds must go towards supporting Veterans and communities. The Legion is hopeful there will be some form of federal assistance that all Branches in need can access before it’s too late.”
John Mahon, President of the Alberta-North West Territories Command, said emergency funding would help Legion Branches get through the summer and help to ensure longevity well into the future. Mahon said of those 161 Legion branches, 18 are facing possible closure due to their inability to raise critical funds needed for operations.”
On June 25 he wrote a letter to Premier Jason Kenney, and stated, “Alberta’s 161 Legion Branches are hubs of support and comradeship, and we must help them survive so they may continue to provide the critical help needed by our Veterans and communities. , “We need your help to find a solution and ask that you raise our plight with your federal colleagues.”
It was back on April 28, Legion President wrote Prime Minister Trudeau asking for the process and eligibility criteria be forthcoming without delay in order to transfer additional help to Branches as quickly as they could.
While the Royal Canadian Legion Branch in Vegreville is not in any imminent danger of closing, it has taken a significant hit financially because members have been unable to host regular events such as bingos, family game night, pancake breakfasts and steak fry suppers. They have not been able to rent out their hall for rentals, which usually accounts for several thousands of dollars, and helps offset some of the regular expenses.
Bookkeeper Angela Mitchell said, “Catering is our biggest source of revenue.” They have had to cancel 11 events between March to May, which hasn’t been easy on members, patrons, and customers. Clubhouse revenue is down 85 percent and gaming revenue has sharply declined.
Fortunately, the province loosened health restrictions enough for the Legion to be able to re-open its clubhouse on June 3. “We’re hoping to re-open our bingos on July 16 pending AGLC approval.”
The Vegreville Legion currently has 170 members.
There may be a glimmer of hope for Legion Branches because during the Prime Minister’s daily briefing during question and answer period he said the federal government is looking into ways to support Royal Canadian Legions and other service and volunteer-based organizations that are “going through a very difficult time right now.”
“There have been many, many supports for Canadians but there are smaller organizations, service organizations, and legions… that are going through a very difficult time right now,” Trudeau told reporters on Friday, (June 26).
“We know that, we hear that, and we’re working with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and other officials to try and ensure that we’re supporting these organizations that are so important, not just for veterans, but for their communities as well,” he said.