NNEDV Welcomes End-of-Year COVID-19 Relief
December 22, 2020
Continues to work for more support for survivors in 2021
A Statement by Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO
Last night, the House and Senate passed the next COVID-19 relief package and the federal fiscal year 2021 funding. The final passed bill includes direct cash payments, modest increases to victim service funding, rental assistance and an eviction moratorium, tax credits for families, and nutrition aid. While the provisions were hard-won and will ease some of the suffering caused by the pandemic and the economic fallout, the National Network to End Domestic Violence is disappointed that Congress failed to include a critical fix to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund. We end this year celebrating the final relief package, feeling grateful for our community and champions, but staying steadfast in our efforts to urge for more support for survivors in the 117th Congress.
Millions of victims rely on VOCA funds, which come from fines and fees from federal criminal cases, to access lifesaving services including shelter, housing, legal assistance, counseling, and more. However, VOCA is facing massive, immediate cuts and additional future funding cuts if Congress does not pass the legislative fix. The FY21 bill cuts VOCA by $600 million and without the legislative fix, more cuts are on the horizon.
The VOCA fix has bipartisan, bicameral support and should have been included in the end of year package to stave off the looming cuts that will endanger survivors. While domestic violence programs are worried about how to shelter, house, and advocate on behalf of victims and their children, in the midst of a global pandemic, they will now face uncertainty over their budgets.
The lack of a VOCA fix and other much-needed economic supports for survivors is discouraging, however, NNEDV welcomes provisions and funding included in the COVID-19 relief package that will help survivors, such as:
- Direct Cash Payments up to $600 per adult and child, including access for families with mixed immigration status.
- Increased victim services specific funding in FY21 appropriations for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the DV homelessness grant program, which will together allow programs to provide shelter, housing, sexual assault services, and legal services.
- $25 billion in rental assistance, a new incremental voucher program, and a continued eviction moratorium that will help ensure survivors and their families can remain in their homes or secure safe housing when fleeing abuse.
- Economic supports such as:
- Continued Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits and $300 per week enhancement;
- Earned Income Tax and Child Tax Credits based on 2019 income for families who have faced job loss and diminished wages during the pandemic; and
- $13 billion more in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, which will help survivors facing food insecurity.
- Additional time to spend CARES Act funds, which could allow domestic violence programs flexibility to address ongoing needs and budget shortfalls.
As survivors and advocates navigate the ongoing pandemic, these provisions will address some of the most urgent needs.
To the community of advocates and survivors we represent – we are in awe reflecting on your tenacity and grateful for everything you have done this year. You shifted your work so quickly to meet the increasing and emerging needs of survivors while adhering to new guidance and avoiding the virus. Though likely exhausted at the end of this very long year, you used your voices to urge Members of Congress to pass the VOCA legislative fix and other provisions that help survivors stay safe and economically stable. Although we did not secure a VOCA victory, the amazing work from our advocates has laid the groundwork for these conversations to continue into the new year.
We are also grateful for the bipartisan, bicameral group of Representatives and Senators and their staff who fought valiantly for the VOCA fix and have vowed to get it over the finish line next year. We look forward to working with them in the 117th Congress to advance access to safety and justice for all survivors. NNEDV will continue to work for stronger and additional economic and policy support for all survivors.