The 1.3 million charity workers help hold Australia together at times of crisis. This is a massive sector, and one which has been suffering a perfect storm over recent weeks. We've seen a huge drop off in donations to Australia's charities. Philanthropic foundations are experiencing lower sharemarket returns, so they're giving less. Australians are giving less to their favourite charities, and many significant fundraising events such as fundraising balls are dropping off. Op shops are closing. Charities are getting far less revenue now than they did in the past. They're suffering a fall in their volunteer base, too. Millions of Australians volunteer, but older Australians are increasingly refraining from volunteering because of the risk of being exposed to others.
At the same time, we need our charities more than we ever have. We need Australia's charities to assist with addressing family violence, with the challenge of joblessness, with the mental health issues that are arising and with problems around financial counselling. We're drawing on Australia's charities to help the homeless and Indigenous Australians, groups that are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.
I've assembled some information to assist, current as of the 29th of May 2020.
Key business measures include charities
Following Labor advocacy after the first stimulus announcement, the government has expanded eligibility for economic support for business to charities and not-for-profits.
Charities and not-for-profits registered with the ACNC, with less than $50 million in aggregated annual turnover, and which employ people will have access to the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measures.
These include two payments equal to 100 per cent of their salary and wages withheld. Each of the payments are up to a max of $50,000, but not below a minimum of $10,000.
If you are eligible, you do not need to separately apply. Upon lodgement of your activity statement, your first amount will automatically be credited to your account, starting from the 28 April 2020.
The government will allocate a minimum of $1,500 per eligible employee per fortnight to eligible businesses and charities. This subsidy will be administered by the ATO and specified for wage payments.
This will help keep charities staffed and operating at capacity.
I am aware of issues regarding the calculation of aggregated turnover. Due to the ebbs and flows of philanthropic donation, many charities are concerned that they will not have access to the JobKeeper Payment.
Charities and businesses can register with the ATO online.
If your charity is experiencing issues with cashflow that make covering the months wages difficult, banks have established hotlines to assist in covering wage payments.
If your charity has any concerns, please email me.
Community Support Package
A $200mn Community Support Package has been allocated to help vulnerable Australians.
More than $37 million will be shared amongst almost 200 existing Commonwealth funded Emergency Relief providers to support changing service delivery models and increased demand.
For further details on this relief funding, please see here.
For the list of providers working with the Department of Social Services, including those who will receive additional funding, please see the helpful tool here.
Territory government measures
The ACT Government will work with non-government organisation partners to develop a $7 million Community Support Package to best meet increased service demand for emergency relief.
This package will provide food relief and support for vulnerable members of our community and $2 million to support the not-for-profit sector to deliver further mental health and community support.
A further $2 million have been announced, including additional funding for National Disability Services ACT, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service, Legal Aid, Canberra Community Law, the Aboriginal Legal Service, Menslink, the Youth Coalition, OneLink, the Vietnam Veterans Centre, the RSL Woden Sub-Branch and the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre.
As Labor's spokesperson on charities, I will continue to advocate on their behalf at a time when our charities are under pressure, and when more and more Australians will be turning to them for vital support.
Below is a list of links to organisations and resources which may be able to help address issues facing organisations at this time.
Regulatory oversight and governance
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s website has up to date information for charities about changes in reporting schedules and governance obligations. ‘Charity Operations and Covid-19’ provides advice about regulatory considerations around fundraising, reporting , timing of Annual General Meetings, use of charity reserves and other administrative and governance considerations.
Legal questions and charity management
Justice Connect are offering the community sector free resources and advice from their expert legal networks, regarding insurance, risk, obligations around funding targets and a range of other matters. Justice Connect have established a Covid-19 hub addressing the range of new guidelines, restrictions and expectations for organisations and the public, and how these intersect.
Not for Profit Law’s Covid-19 response provides a range of expert information for charities and community organisations who are continuing to operate or deciding on appropriate pathways for their organisation over future months.
Fair Work and Volunteering
Advice for employers and employees on elements of workplace law that interact with Covid-19 considerations is available from the Fair Work Ombudsman.
Volunteering Australia’s Position Paper on ‘Safeguarding Volunteers and Volunteer Involving Organisations’ provides advice on adjusting volunteer involving operations and minimising risk, both for traditional charities and spontaneous community groups assisting others with Corona related problems.
Private Funding – COVID-19 National Funding Platform
Australian Community Foundations and Philanthropy Australia have created a COVID-19 National Funding Platform, connecting organisations with funders. There are no limits or conditions, non-profit and community organisations are encouraged to register their funding needs as they relate to COVID-19 so that Australian philanthropic funders can connect with and support the important work underway to tackle the pandemic and protect our communities.