January 11, 2019
Survivors of domestic violence, child abuse and a slew of other crimes could be next to feel the squeeze of the partial government shutdown.
Shelters across the country are bracing for federal funds to dry up in the coming weeks. The Justice Department has been warning the state agencies and nonprofits that run them that it will only be able to process funding requests until Jan. 18. Justice is one of nine departments shuttered by the dispute over funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall.
The department administers funding for organizations that help survivors of crimes — including sexual abuse, human trafficking and elder abuse — including more than $3 billion doled out under the Victims of Crime Act victim’s assistance grants.
The money supports everything from rape crisis centers to counseling and child advocates.
“We’re talking thousands of programs across the country,” said Steve Derene, executive director of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators. “Some programs will prioritize the more critical services, some may have to lay off staff.”
At one shelter in Estes Park, Colo., staff members are buying supplies out-of-pocket and donating them, said Amy Pohl, associate director of Violence Free Colorado, the state’s domestic violence coalition.
“The already strapped staff that doesn’t know if they’re going to get a paycheck this month are the ones out there buying supplies,” she said.
Pohl said programs across the state “are working on contingency plans, including freezing buying supplies — that could be shelter supplies and even food for people in shelters.”
At least eight counseling and crisis intervention groups in Florida will have to cut staff in the next three weeks. By early February, five more will cut services. A total of 188 salaries are paid through the grant, which is financed through criminal penalties.
Derene said groups have heard daily from the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, which has enough carry-over funds to continue processing funding requests for the time being.
As of Thursday, the office has told organizations it can continue doing so until Jan. 18, but Pohl said Justice Department officials have warned that their list of requests is piling up and the agency has urged organizations to get in requests as soon as possible.
For now, shelters “are doing what they do for as long as they can,” said Beth Goodrich, executive director of the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “At this time, none of our programs have completely shut down, but they all have a plan in place and a date in mind when that will have to happen. The longer the shutdown continues, the more dire it seems.”
Alexandra Glorioso contributed to this report.