Third sector looks to gov't for financial relief

Some 30 non-profit organizations call for emergency plan to help keep hundreds of local charities and grass-roots organizations from closing down.

Herzog 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Herzog 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Some 30 non-profit organizations called on the government Monday to immediately create an emergency plan to help keep hundreds of local charities and grass-roots organizations from closing down due to economic burdens, The Jerusalem Post has learned. "If something is not done soon to help these organizations, then we will likely see more than 20 thousand people joining the unemployment lines," representatives of the organizations wrote in a statement. The groups were set to meet with government representatives late on Monday to discuss the matter. "Just like everyone else, we pay our taxes [and] social welfare packages, and support tens of thousands of families," continued the statement. "Firing workers will eventually cost the state much more in unemployment benefits than a comprehensive rescue package." Eran Klein, project manager at Shatil, the New Israel Fund's empowerment and training center and one of the organizations belonging to the umbrella body, said it was not only a matter of employees losing their jobs. "We are also talking about many charities being forced to close due to the economic crisis and that, in turn, means some of society's weakest segments not getting essential services," he said. Klein, who was to be at Monday evening's meeting, said he was not optimistic that the government would agree to a relief package on the scale needed to protect the non-profit sector from the recession. His assumptions were based on the conclusions of previous meetings held between the Prime Minister's Office and the Treasury. He said the charities were asking the government to address four central issues as part of an aid package: the cancellation of a seven percent tax on non-profit organizations; the establishment of a comprehensive program to slow down recession-induced layoffs; a drive to increase donor bases, including those for grassroots donors; and a new fund to provide emergency aid to organizations on the verge of closing down. "If the government expects the third sector to continue in the same way it's been operating up until now, it will be extremely disappointed," Klein said. He added that the situation had become dire for many non-profits over the past few months, and that even if the government refused to implement an immediate bail-out program similar to initiatives for the business sector, "we will continue to push them to tackle this problem." Meanwhile, speaking at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center's annual conference on Monday, Minister of Welfare and Social Services Isaac Herzog addressed the challenges faced by the third sector during the economic crisis. "The non-profit sector is falling apart, with many organizations closing down completely," Herzog said in his speech. "Due to the situation, we have to think twice about privatizing our social welfare activities." Herzog's director-general, Nachum Itzkovitz, told a conference panel that 90% of the ministry's operations were currently being outsourced to non-profit organizations. He also warned that further increases in unemployment would most certainly put a strain on the entire social welfare system.