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NNEDV Welcomes Passage of the CARES Act, Additional Relief Still Needed for Survivors of Domestic and Sexual Violence

March 27, 2020

The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) welcomes the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (S. 3548). The CARES Act includes $45 million for desperately needed emergency shelter via the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). This supplemental funding will allow domestic violence programs to quickly house and support vulnerable survivors. The CARES Act also provides $4 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants and other housing resources, some of which will be available to help survivors, as well as  allocates $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, a crucial lifeline during the COVID-19 crisis.

“While national leaders encourage us to stay home to reduce transmission of the COVID-19 virus, we also know that home is not safe for many adults and children. Resources are now strained by the pandemic and survivors face more limited, and sometimes more excruciating, choices. We commend Congress for taking steps to protect these survivors in the CARES Act,” said Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO. “We now call on Congress to take additional steps to directly combat domestic and sexual violence in their fourth supplemental stimulus package.”

Even with the passage of this Act, serious gaps in funding and policies to keep survivors and their children safe remain unaddressed. The CARES Act included no supplemental funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs and no resources to address sexual assault. More than 100 organizations called on Congress to provide additional domestic violence-specific housing resources, paid sick time, protections for immigrant survivors regardless of their status, and to waive burdensome grant requirements. Many of these provisions and an additional $350 million in funding for VAWA and FVPSA were included in the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act (H.R. 6379), that was introduced but not passed by the House. NNEDV calls on Congress to provide additional relief for all domestic and sexual violence survivors—and the programs that serve them—in the next federal relief package.

In response to COVID-19, many domestic violence programs are moving survivors to hotels and other temporary accommodations to prevent spreading the virus in communal shelters. Others are switching to remote and digital services that can help survivors in isolation, including those trapped at home with abusive partners. When possible, programs are providing financial assistance to survivors who have lost income due to the crisis and may face eviction. These programs are struggling to meet the complex needs of survivors and keep their own staff healthy.  Resources to address these and other resources must be considered by Congress in its next COVID-19 stimulus package.

“Even before the COVID-19 crisis, domestic violence service providers had to turn away survivors because shelters and programs were full,” said Vagins. “According to our 14th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Report, in just one day, 11,336 requests for services went unmet due to lack of resources and nearly 70 percent of those were requests for housing and shelter. Now that programs are struggling to respond to COVID-19, needs are even greater and many survivors are in grave danger. Congress must act quickly to prevent further violence and illness.”