Federal Shutdown Jeopardizes Domestic Violence Victims and Programs
October 1, 2013
The level of uncertainty for domestic violence victims and the programs that serve them increased today, this first day of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as the federal government shut down due to an unfinished funding bill.
Domestic violence victims often rely on government supports to maintain their safety and economic stability in times of crisis. For instance, many victims of domestic violence depend on safety net benefits, like the federally-funded Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) program. This and other federally-supported benefits are threatened by a government shutdown that lasts more than a few days.
"Poor and vulnerable victims are now left wondering if and when their benefits will be stopped, and whether that will force them to return with their children to a dangerous and terrorizing partner," said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). Gandy continued “Beyond the impact on individual victims, the shelters that provide safe refuge are at risk of closing their doors during the shutdown. Victim services providers ‘front’ the government by helping victims with extremely limited unrestricted funds, then the shelters get reimbursed by the government so they can continue to serve victims for another day. As of this afternoon, agencies from Montana to Vermont are already being told they cannot get reimbursed for thousands of dollars of critical services they already provided last month.”
Congressionally mandated across-the-board cuts in federal funding have already taken a serious toll on victim service providers who work on shoestring budgets to provide life-saving services. Programs have been forced to cut staff and reduce services at a time when more and more victims are requesting services. This shutdown will only exacerbate the funding crisis.
The government shutdown could delay funding and further destabilize programs that provide essential services in their communities. Domestic violence programs that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to serve victims in immediate and often life-threatening danger rely on federal funding to keep their lights on and their doors open. Though programs will remain open during the shutdown, the uncertainty of federal funding in the shutdown only worsens the current reality of slashed budgets. Programs may not be able to access their federal funds and once more may have to cut staff, reduce services, and serve even fewer victims in crisis.
"When an average of three women are killed in the United States every day by a current or former intimate partner, it is unconscionable to allow life-saving domestic violence programs to shutter their doors and put their crisis lines on hold," said Gandy. “We strongly urge Congress to immediately pass a budget that will allow the federal government to function and that does not enshrine the devastating sequester cuts which have already begun to dismantle victim services across the country. Congress must replace the sequester with a plan that meets the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable. It is unconscionable that shelters across the national are at risk of closing due to the government shutdown -- an inauspicious way to start Domestic Violence Awareness Month.”
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