OTTAWA -- The Royal Canadian Legion is optimistic that the federal government will provide relief to more than 150 of its legion halls at risk of closing permanently, citing the ongoing financial strains of COVID-19 and a gap in support.

In a statement to CTV News, a representative for the organization said 157 of its 1,381 branches face closure – up 33 since last month. Meanwhile, 347 branches are experiencing some financial difficulty, 201 have applied for government assistance, and only 130 have actually received support.

For veterans, legions are often a critical resource to help adjust back into civilian life. These not-for-profit facilities provide a host of services such as financial assistance, mental health care, family supports, and aid for homeless veterans.

"They are a source of comradery, I would say. They often hold events, they’re the hubs of their communities, especially in rural centres," said Nujma Bond, communications manager at The Royal Canadian Legion National Headquarters in Ottawa.

Bond said individual branches initially thought they’d be able to apply for the Emergency Community Support Fund – a $350-million investment in community organizations announced in April that flows through the United Way, the Canadian Red Cross, and Community Foundations of Canada.

However, to qualify for the funding, organizations much show that they’d use the money solely on COVID-19-related activities. Upholding operational costs, as legions required, made them ineligible.

"That’s where the need is currently the greatest,"she said.

"Some branches have qualified for funding mostly in the form of the loan that is being provided through the Canada Emergency Business Account, that can help in the short-term but most of it needs to be paid back which could be a challenge for branches down the line if operations don’t go back to normal."

Going back to the status quo anytime soon will be challenging for legions whose primary source of revenue are big events including barbecues, dinners, bingo nights and meat draws.

"Even in some cases where branches are slowly starting to reopen, they are facing many restrictions which are understandable restrictions, but it places added pressure on their ability to host as many people as they normally host," said Bond.

The national headquarters has written to the Prime Minister’s Office twice outlining their situation and calling for more flexibility in the eligibility of federal programs. They’ve since met with Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay to express their concerns.

"I would say that there is hope that there will be a positive outcome, and some sort of tangible solution to help our branches," she said.

In an emailed statement to on Monday, Cameron McNeill, a spokesperson for MacAulay, acknowledged the Legion’s request and affirmed that support is in the works.

"The Minister has recently spoken with the Royal Canadian Legion about their request for financial assistance. As the Prime Minister has indicated, our response to this pandemic is ongoing, and we will continue to explore ways to ensure that we’re providing Canadians and our community partners with the support they need. We hope to have more to say on this shortly," he said.

A government source within the ministry also told the department is finalizing the details of a new government aid "package" that will include support for the Legion. They couldn’t confirm the exact timing of when it will be released but said it should be arriving soon.

With files from CTV News’ Annie Bergeron-Oliver