As many have heard by this time, the LOI solicitation process from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) for the Community Action Fund (CAF) and the Harm Reduction Fund (HRF) was announced on November 23. These two funding streams are designed to support the Government of Canadas’ efforts to address STBBI, guided by the Pan-Canadian Framework for Action on STBBI and the Government of Canada Five Year Action Plan on STBBI.
Community Action Fund (CAF): PHAC invests $26.4 million annually to support time-limited projects across Canada to address HIV, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted infections (e.g., chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis) through the CAF. Organizations can apply for a maximum of 5 years of project funding.
Harm Reduction Fund (HRF): PHAC invests $7 million annually through the HRF to support time-limited projects across Canada that will help reduce HIV and hepatitis C among people who share injection and inhalation drug-use equipment. Organizations can apply for 3 or 5 years of project funding for a maximum of $250,000 per year. PHAC may accept requests for larger investments depending on the scope and scale of the project.
The deadline to submit an LOI to either fund, is January 29, 2021 at 3 PM Eastern time.
These funding streams aim to support the community response to sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI) in Canada. The CAF and HRF seek to ensure that:
- community-based efforts reach key populations, including people unaware of their HIV or hepatitis C status, and link them to testing, prevention, treatment and care
- communities design and implement evidence-based front-line projects to prevent new and reoccurring infections
- high impact interventions are brought to scale so that more people benefit from them
- community-based efforts reduce stigma toward populations disproportionally affected by STBBI, including people living with HIV or hepatitis C
PAN, along with many of its member organizations have relied on PHAC funding through the years to support our work. Today and looking to the future, the CAF and HRF are an important source of multi-year funding to support the work of community-based organizations working to address STBBIs.
The last CAF funding solicitation process took place in 2015 and many PAN members found it to be a challenging process. A number of PAN members that had previously benefited from PHAC funding, were unsuccessful in their Letters of Intent (LOIs). At the time there was a lot of advocacy work undertaken by PAN, several members, and also by partners and allies across Canada to underscore challenges with the new CAF funding model – both in terms of how the application process looked; as well as the outcomes of the funding decisions. While PHAC did in the end decide to provide all previously funded organizations with a year of transition funding, nonetheless the CAF funding process ultimately resulted in the sun-setting of many valuable front line programs and services in BC and across Canada.
This past spring, PAN, along with the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN), Coalition of Quebec Community AIDS Organizations (COCQ-SIDA) and the Alberta Community Council on HIV (ACCH) had a series of meetings with PHAC national staff to discuss our hopes and expectations for the new solicitation process as well as what we considered to be priorities for their upcoming consultation process. Over the summer and fall, a total of 19 virtual engagement sessions were held. PHAC just released a pre-recorded presentation about those consultation sessions, what was learned and how the feedback they heard was incorporated into the LOI process. You can see that webinar here.
The good news is, all that feedback and consultation made a difference! There have been some significant improvements to the CAF and the HRF is also looking like an accessible application process.
More good news, our colleagues at the Ontario AIDS Network (OAN) have created two useful documents (available below) to support their members and partners in navigating the LOI process for each fund. They have generously shared these documents with PAN and the other provincial networks, with the offer to make it available to our members as well.
The documents are helpful because they highlight the changes between the last CAF and HRF funding cycles, and the current ones – so it is easy to see what has changed between then and now. OAN members have also generated a number of questions for each funding opportunity – those are being presented to PHAC this week and OAN will share those responses with PAN when they come available.
PHAC conducted two Q&A sessions on the CAF and HRF LOI process – these were held on December 8 and 9. During these two 90-minute sessions, PHAC fielded many questions from across Canada. They have committed to transferring those questions to the FAQ section of their website. Importantly, they have also committed to updating the FAQ section on a weekly basis (every Friday) between now and the application deadline of January 29, 2021. The FAQ section is a very helpful resource if you are considering applying to either fund.
Additionally, if folks have questions regarding either fund, PHAC has created a portal for them to send those questions – [email protected]. While myself and other staff at PAN are happy to field questions about the fund in general, it is best to ask specific application related questions to PHAC directly.
PAN will continue to make information about the LOI process available as soon as it is received. And we will persist with our national advocacy efforts with the federal government, as PAN – along with 16 other provincial and national organizations – continue to call on Minister Hajdu to increase federal funding for addressing HIV, hepatitis C, and other STBBIs.
|OAN Community Action Fund LOI Communique||OAN Harm Reduction Fund Communique|
Questions? Comments? Get in touch.
Jennifer (Evin) Jones, Executive Director, [email protected]