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2017 President’s Budget Invests in Women and Families but Reduces Funding for Some Core Anti-Violence Programs

February 10, 2016

President Obama’s 2017 budget is the final one of his presidency, and the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) joins advocates across the country in celebrating the president’s investments in programs that give struggling and working families more of the tools they need to succeed.

“We support President Obama’s vision for reducing economic disparity and for investing in programs that address the realities of today’s working families – child care, Head Start, unemployment insurance, increased housing resources, job training, earned-income tax credit improvements, and more,” said Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). “We know these provisions, if enacted, will go a long way toward bolstering the economic security of millions of victims of domestic violence.”

The president’s budget does include increased investments in some key areas, including programs that improve the criminal justice response to domestic and sexual violence and provide legal assistance to victims, grants for campuses to address dating and sexual violence, and resources for the Department of Education to investigate compliance with federal laws that protect students from such crimes.

However, it inappropriately redirects funds from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The result is that this budget would significantly reduce the funding available for VOCA-funded victims services, while still cutting a cornerstone VAWA program: the STOP program (Services, Training, Officers and Prosecutors), which is at the heart of the VAWA’s reach and purpose. The reduction in funding for these two core programs is shocking in light of the increasing need  [1] for victim services and system improvements.

“We are disappointed that the President’s proposed budget followed the harmful precedent set in the FY 16 Appropriations process – transferring money from the VOCA [2] Victim Assistance fund to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), without actually increasing VAWA services. This would reduce the amount of VOCA funds available to states to maintain victim services,” said Gandy, “without creating a parallel benefit in VAWA services. Congress recently began to adequately invest in victim services via the Victims of Crime Act and we are looking forward to seeing the gap in services shrink. We can’t backpedal on that progress, just as it is starting to make a difference.”

VOCA and STOP are underpinnings of our nation’s response to domestic and sexual violence. Improved systemic responses on campuses, in courtrooms and in the community will result in more survivors seeking services and help from a local program – at the very time that funding for those programs are being significantly reduced from the current budget.

“NNEDV is grateful to the president, the vice president and the entire Obama Administration for their commitment to addressing many core economic policies, which will help victims maintain stability after fleeing abuse. In order to help survivors in crisis and improve our communities’ responses, we need appropriate investment in  VAWA and VOCA as well.” said Gandy. “We plan to work with the administration and Congress to maintain the investments in the President’s budget and to increase key programs that serve millions of victims each year.”

[1] There are simply not enough resources to meet the need for victim services. NNEDV’s Domestic Violence Counts report found that in one 24-hour period in September 2015, over 71,000 victims received lifesaving services at domestic violence programs nationwide. During that same 24-hour period, however, over 12,000 requests for services went unmet, largely due to lack of funding. The 2015 Domestic Violence Counts report will be released on February 24, 2016.

[2] The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund is a non-taxpayer fund consisting of fines and fees paid by criminals. It contains approximately $12 billion. By transferring money from VOCA to VAWA, the federal government proposes to remove most of the pre-existing tax-funded investment in VAWA programs, which support essential government functions that prevent and end the heinous crimes of domestic and sexual violence.