Putin announces measures to support volunteers and NGOs
Vladimir Putin announces measures to support volunteers and NGOs
Three billion roubles to be set aside from a reserve fund, expanding the list of social services, tax deferrals, contributions and leases. The President held a virtual meeting with representatives from the NGO sector and #EveryoneTogether.
Support for volunteers
Igor Larin, a resuscitation specialist at a hospital in Kommunarka, asked the President to ensure that medical volunteers who work shoulder to shoulder with doctors in “red zones” are included in the insurance scheme that covers medical personnel working with the coronavirus.
The doctor also asked Putin to make sure that regional hospitals were provided with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). “My colleagues regularly inform me of a lack of available PPE. I very much hope these shortages can be addressed as a matter of urgency, not just for us in Kommunarka but across Russia as so much depends on frontline staff being properly protected”, said Larin.
Putin agreed with the doctor and confirmed that support programmes would be extended to include volunteers “working on the front line with doctors”.
At the end of the meeting, Putin announced that three billion roubles would be allocated from the Presidential reserve fund to support socially-oriented, charitable and volunteer organisations which are helping to deal with the pandemic. In a separate initiative, Putin has instructed his Government to consider what more can be done to support volunteers in discussion with the Association of Volunteer Centres and the business sector.
Support for NGOs
Maria Ostrovskaya, President of Perspektiva, a charity that supports people with disabilities, said NGOs were now seen as a “true professional partner” working with those Government organisations involved in helping to save the lives of coronavirus patients. She asked that State targeted support be given for NGOs that are providing help in hospitals.
“They are working alongside doctors in high risk environments and suffering heavy workloads. It would be very helpful if the working conditions of residential workers were the same as those for doctors and for them to receive extra pay for helping during the pandemic”, she said.
Olga also explained that prior to the crisis, a lot of NGOs were surviving to a large extent thanks to the support of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who now find themselves in difficult financial situations. In order to have a chance of retaining staff at a time of a drop in donations, NGOs should have the same status as SMEs and offered similar benefits.
Following the meeting, the President said he would instruct his Cabinet to set out “clear and understandable criteria for providing support to NGOs”. “I believe it’s vital to provide SONGOs with additional support measures comparable to those already in place for SMEs affected by the pandemic. These will include six-month tax deferrals, insurance contributions to social charities, together with a deferral of rents for State and municipal properties as set out in an earlier Government decision”, said Putin.
Putin reminded those present of a previously issued Order that supports businesses which help NGOs in exempting from tax the costs of goods donated to charity. Nyuta Federmesser, founder of the Faith charity, also asked the President for help for charities and social institution employees.
“Charitable organisations changed their ways of working and started spending money they ought not to have done on things such as protective equipment and sweets for those isolating in psycho-neurological residential institutions (PNRIs). I hope these charities can count on financial support from the Presidential Grants Fund. It’s really important that social protection needs and NGOs are given help”, said Federmesser. She also highlighted the need for help for people who take PNRI residents into care and that they be paid the equivalent of “at least one person’s wages”.
Putin was impressed with Federmesser’s proposals which he felt were comprehensive and well-considered and went on to announce: “I propose to introduce payments for SONGO staff who during the pandemic are taking elderly people and those with disabilities out of social institutions and into temporary care. They will be paid for two months each month at no less than the minimum wage. It’s vital that a record is kept of the number of people who are put into temporary care”.
Elena Tselishcheva, Deputy Director of Life, an organisation that supports homeless people in Chelyabinsk oblast, asked the Russian President to include this vulnerable group on the list of those eligible for social services. In reply, Putin said he recognised that homeless people were at great risk during the pandemic and promised to add this group to the list, as well as continuing to support organisations such as Life in the form of grants.
The President also undertook to help charities to maintain their collectives and would instruct his Government to establish a “simple and practical mechanism that provides direct financial support to NGOs” to help with their salaries, as well as offering soft loans to pay for a proportion of NGO wages.
“Help should in the first instance be given to NGOs which have already proven themselves to be reliable partners of the State and society, e.g. winners of Presidential Grant competitions”, said the President.
Help for social services
Elizaveta Oleskina, President of the charity Happiness in Old Age, asked Vladimir Putin to set aside additional funds from the federal budget to support regional social services and allow organisations to organise care in residential institutions where staff shortages exist.
“We’ve seen what awaits staff when their residential facility becomes a hotbed of the disease. New members of staff need to be found urgently as their infection rates are faster than those of the patients. Additional resources will need to be secured, with residential facilities currently being turned into military hospitals. The regions cannot cope without federal support”, said Oleskina.
The Russian President agreed, stating it was vital to provide additional inducements for staff working in social institutions and that he would instruct his Government to determine the nature and scope of these payments.
Putin also insisted that heads of Russia’s regions maintain the current level of social service purchases from NGOs. “All contractual financial obligations entered into with NGO social service providers must be met each month. There must be no delays”, he added.