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Stories from the Front Lines: The Impact of Emergency Relief Funding for Domestic Violence Programs

August 31, 2020

Through a visionary grants program to provide emergency relief to small domestic violence organizations, The Allstate Foundation and the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) provided desperately-needed support to local programs experiencing unprecedented and unforeseen needs as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In April 2020, The Allstate Foundation partnered with the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) to provide more than $557,000 in small grants to help 124 local domestic violence organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through these small, flexible grants local domestic violence organizations in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico were able to help meet survivors’ needs resulting from the pandemic.

Small Grants Make a Big Impact

Through funds provided by The Allstate Foundation, local programs were able to provide life-changing support to survivors across the country during an uncertain, stressful, and dangerous time. Grantee organizations used the funds to serve more than 7,300 adult and child survivors of domestic violence, many who are from underserved communities, including Asian and Pacific Islander, Black, Deaf, differently abled, immigrant, Latinx, LGBTQIA+, Muslim, rural, and tribal communities. Local domestic violence programs are essential services. Every day, frontline advocates help survivors whose abusive partners may keep them from accessing needed supports and resources.

A grantee in California shared: “One survivor, an immigrant in the LGBTQ+ community, lost their job due to COVID-19 and was unable to afford groceries or pay their phone bill. With funding from The Allstate Foundation, we helped support them so they could stay connected with their community.”

Grant Funds Helped Local Programs Secure Personal Protective Equipment

When stay-at-home orders took effect earlier this year, shoppers across the country found empty shelves where necessities like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and shelf-stable food used to be. Sixty-four of the 124 grant recipients (52%) used their funds to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and cleaning supplies for their staff and the survivors they serve to ensure everyone had access to a clean, safe environment.

This also helped mitigate the impacts of abuse, as some abusers used the shortages as leverage to harm their partners. A grantee in Wisconsin reported: “One abuser threatened a survivor after she was unable to buy hard-to-find cleaning supplies. With The Allstate Foundation’s grant, we bought her these items and housed her, along with her children and pets, until she was able to find a new place to call home.”

Grant Funds Were Also Used to Help Overcome Housing Challenges

With social-distancing rules in place, many shelters suddenly found themselves unable to house as many survivors and families as they had previously. If a shelter employee or a survivor needed to quarantine after a potential COVID-19 exposure, the situation became even more complicated. Forty grant recipients (32%) used funding to secure hotel rooms for survivors so they could safely maintain social distance.

This decision made an enormous difference for one survivor in Colorado, with a grantee sharing: “An abuser repeatedly coughed on his partner after he was exposed to COVID-19. He kicked her out of the house, and she couldn’t access shelter because of her potential exposure. The Allstate Foundation’s funding helped us provide her with a hotel room.”

Flexible Grant Funds Help Address Survivors’ Needs through Direct Cash Assistance

Even prior to the pandemic, direct cash assistance has been an essential tool to help survivors achieve financial stability while they work to rebuild their lives after experiencing abuse. During the quarantine, it became even more critical and helped survivors maintain safety and dignity, even from a distance. Sixty-one grant recipients (49%) used funds for direct cash assistance, including purchasing gift cards for things like transportation and food.

In Illinois, a grantee told us: “The pandemic left one survivor unemployed, and she contracted COVID-19. She was moved to tears after receiving gift cards from our organization to order groceries for her family while they were quarantined. The Allstate Foundation’s grant literally helped this family survive.”

Grant Funds Help Domestic Violence Organizations Upgrade or Improve Technology to Safely Provide Digital Services

As many of us adjusted to working and socializing online, domestic violence shelters faced a unique challenge: converting as many of their programs as possible to an online format, including individual counseling, support groups, and even schooling for children living in-shelter. Thirty-four grant recipients (27%) used funding to defray these unexpected costs.

The benefits of securing technology can’t be overstated. As another grantee in California said: “One member of our online support group told us: ‘With the shelter-in-place order, I felt really scared and locked down. With the online support group, I felt connected with the community and felt less scared. I felt like I belonged.’”

Small Grants Help Ensure Continuity and Consistency in Communities Across the Country

Many local domestic violence organizations rely on community donations and annual fundraising events to keep their lights on and their doors open. With COVID-19 restrictions severely impacting their fundraising efforts, funding from The Allstate Foundation allowed forty grant recipients (32%) to cover general operating funds, including rent, mortgage, personnel, and hazard pay for their employees.

A Minnesota grantee shared: “We gave transportation to a survivor who had been severely injured by her partner and had no other way to leave the area. Funds from The Allstate Foundation made it possible to pay our staff hazard pay as they put themselves at risk to help others during this pandemic, including providing transportation and housing services.”

These and countless other stories demonstrate the incredible impact of this funding initiative from The Allstate Foundation. A grantee in Michigan summed it up: “With the funds we received from The Allstate Foundation, we were able to continue services to survivors during a very uncertain time. The violence and abuse did not stop when the pandemic hit, and we were there for them every step of the way.”

Get Involved to Help Survivors NOW

NNEDV was honored to partner with The Allstate Foundation to support these local domestic violence organizations during an unprecedented event. However, we know that challenges will continue long after lockdowns are lifted. Now is the time to get involved and demonstrate your support for survivors in your community. Find your local state or territory domestic violence coalition here, or learn how you can get involved in other ways here.