Seven of Australia’s leading international aid agencies are urging the Federal Government to include in their COVID-19 economic support package specific measures to help charities continue their life-saving work in the most vulnerable communities worldwide.
The organisations – CARE Australia, ChildFund Australia, Fred Hollows Foundation, Oxfam Australia, Plan International Australia, Save the Children Australia and World Vision Australia – said the not-for-profit sector was facing a perfect storm of falling revenue and unprecedented demand for their services fuelled by the pandemic.
The call comes at a time when international aid programs are even more vital, as developing countries face the risk of health systems being overwhelmed by the crisis.
Many international agencies are already adapting their work to deliver life-saving aid in response to the COVID-19 emergency, to protect people and reduce infection rates. So, we are deeply concerned about the impact of ceasing vital services at a time of unprecedented need – now more than ever, each person’s health is dependent on everyone else’s.
While we welcome the announcement of the government’s JobKeeper measures, which are now being developed, we call on the government and opposition to ensure large international aid agencies, which help millions of the most disadvantaged people – especially women and children, in Australia and overseas each year – are included in this support package.
We echo calls by the recently formed Charities Crisis Cabinet for greater support and flexible arrangements for the sector reliant on donations and grants, including:
- increasing the tax deduction for donations to registered charities to 150 per cent, reviewable after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic
- establishing a $750m Australian Charities Stabilisation Fund for charities registered with the ACNC to help to stabilise and manage cash flow as a result of COVID-19
- low- or no-interest loans over an initial 12-month period to help with liquidity, as most charities do not have the capacity to take on debt under loans
- lifting the cap for Fringe Benefit Tax exemptions/salary packaging for charities
Many organisations are facing a battle to survive as they contend with reduced donations from the public, while managing vastly increased workloads due to the pandemic. According to the Community Council for Australia, some of the nation’s strongest charities face losing between 20 and 40 per cent of their workforces, meaning the potential loss of up to 250,000 jobs.
Currently, Australian charities employ 1.26 million people, rely on more than 3.5 million volunteers, and contribute about 8 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product – similar in scale to the resources sector.
We believe Australia’s role as a good neighbour and global citizen has never been more important and that charities such as ours are well placed to provide urgent hygiene and healthcare to limit the spread of coronavirus. That is why we are urging the government to work with us to limit the spread of the virus at home and in our region.
Australia’s international aid agencies are committed to standing by fellow Australians and our international neighbours, and to continue our crucial work of supporting communities. But we also need the Australian Government to stand by us in this time of a global crisis.