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Financial help services for vulnerable Manitobans at risk as funding for successful pilot expires

23 March 2021
Pilot project secured $138.5 million in new income for low-income Manitobans over 4 years
WINNIPEG/TREATY ONE TERRITORY, March 23, 2021 / CNW/  – Urgently needed free financial help services for vulnerable Manitobans could not be ending at a worse time, as more low-income people than ever are seeking help to file their taxes and deal with CERB repayments, but federal funding for the highly successful National Financial Empowerment Champion (NFEC) pilot project delivering these services ended December 31, 2020 and temporary stop gap funding is also expiring.

The NFEC project, led by national charity Prosper Canada, trained and funded nonprofit Financial Empowerment Champion (FEC) organizations in five cities to deliver a suite of financial help services tailored for people with low incomes – financial education, tax filing and benefit assistance, financial counselling/coaching, basic banking support, and help opening Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs). FEC organizations also trained and worked with other community organizations to help them build financial help into their services and to coordinate referrals to improve people’s access to services.
Manitoba services delivered October 2016 through December 2020 by SEED Winnipeg and Community Financial Counselling Services, in collaboration with local partners, achieved the following impact for Manitobans with low incomes:
  • Assisted them to file 50,220 tax returns yielding $138.5 million in new income
  • Helped submit 3,512 income benefit applications
  • 10,879 individuals participated in financial education
  • 2,657 individuals received financial counselling or coaching
  • Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) were opened for 2,192 children rendering them eligible for up to $1.1 million in Canada Education Savings Grants and Canada Learning Bonds
  • Helped them to obtain 3,517 pieces of identification
  • Partnered with over 130 organizations and trained 2,505 community service providers to deliver and expand access to financial education, tax filing help and support to open RESPs.
Evidence shows that Canadians with low incomes have born the economic brunt of this pandemic and, while some Canadians are doing better financially, households with incomes under $40,000 report that almost all aspects of their finances have worsened since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an October 2020 Leger survey released November 18, 2020 by Prosper Canada.
“We are grateful for support from other funders and have been able to continue providing some financial help services to Manitobans living on low incomes; however, the gap between our capacity and community demand has never been greater,” said Louise Simbandumwe, CoDirector at SEED Winnipeg, noting that SEED is presently able to provide appointments to only one quarter of those seeking financial help each week.
“There are far fewer free tax clinics running this year, meaning many people will not get the help they need,” said John Silver, Executive Director of Community Financial Counselling Services in Winnipeg, which runs the largest free tax-filing clinic in  Canada. “This tax season, we know there are community members who can’t leave their homes, are unable to use virtual services, and aren’t aware of the options available. Renewed funding would enable us to continue to overcome these barriers, but without it many people will lose income benefits they rely on to put food on their table and to pay the rent.”
SEED Winnipeg and Community Financial Counselling Services are joining Prosper Canada in calling for renewed federal investment in the forthcoming federal budget, to sustain and expand community financial help services in Manitoba and nationally to meet urgent needs and ensure Canadians with low incomes, who have lost the most ground financially in this pandemic, are not left behind in Canada’s economic recovery.
“We are asking the federal government to invest $20 million over the next three years to sustain these critical services and expand them to reach more Canadians,” said Elizabeth Mulholland, Chief Executive Officer of Prosper Canada. “Canada currently lags peer nations like the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand that all invest nationally in community financial help services for struggling households and have invested an additional $19-65 million CAD in these services as part of their COVID-19 economic recovery plans. Canada needs to do the same,” she said.

For more information, please contact:

Louise Simbandumwe
SEED Winnipeg

John Silver 
Community Financial Counselling Service, Inc.  

Julie McFayden
Prosper Canada

About SEED Winnipeg
SEED Winnipeg is a non-profit community-based organization that envisions a world where
opportunities exist for all people and communities to realize their hopes, and strives to build
strong communities and increase opportunities for people through financial empowerment
programs and services. To learn more about SEED Winnipeg, please visit

About Community Financial Counselling Services
Community Financial Counselling Services, Inc. (CFCS) is a non-profit agency whose goal is to
strengthen Manitoba communities through the provision of accessible, affordable, respectful,
responsive and effective counselling and advocacy services to meet the unique and complex
needs of individuals, couples and families who are experiencing a variety of challenges in the
areas of personal/family finances, financial literacy, tax preparation, responsible gambling and
government income assistance programs. To learn more about CFCS, please visit