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Reps. Speier, Dingell, Moore, and Kuster Press for Increased Funding for Domestic and Sexual Violence Programs as Survivors are Impacted by the COVID-19 Outbreak

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) was joined by Congresswomen Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Annie Kuster (D-NH), and 25 Members in sending a bipartisan letter urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to provide domestic and sexual violence programs with flexible funding sources to serve survivors in the short- and long-term.

The Members state in their letter that “(r)esearch shows that public crises significantly increase the rate of domestic and sexual violence and that unemployment is a risk factor for domestic and sexual violence. Many survivors were housing insecure and were facing financial hardship before the COVID-19 pandemic and are working in the service industry or in low-wage jobs. Losing their jobs means either returning to abusive relationships or seeking victim services and housing assistance that they previously did not need. They may also find more urgency in leaving abusive relationships and seeking assistance if they are quarantined with an abuser.”

“Domestic violence and sexual assault programs are already unable to meet the needs of survivors. During economic crises, when the demand for services increases substantially, donations decrease, leaving programs unable to cope. This is exacerbated by the need to practice social distancing, which is causing programs to change how they deliver services. Domestic violence shelter capacity is shrinking due to the need to keep shelter residents from being in close contact with non-family members. Many shelters do not have the resources to provide hotel and motel accommodations, and as the need increases and shelter capacity decreases, the need for alternative accommodations likewise increases,” the Members’ letter reads.

The letter goes on to identify resources and support needed to help survivors. In the short term, that includes increasing funding for:

• Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Sexual Assault Service Program (SASP) by at least $100 million;

• Family Violence Prevention and Services Act by at least $100 million; 

• VAWA transitional housing by $40 million;

• Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Continuum of Care Domestic Violence Bonus funds by $100 million; 

• HUD Emergency Solutions Grants and Disaster Housing Assistance programs and require distribution to domestic violence and sexual assault organizations;

• VAWA housing vouchers at HUD by $20 million;

• The National Domestic Violence Hotline by $2 million;

• VAWA STOP grants by $100 million;

• VAWA Culturally Specific Services for Victims grant program and Outreach and Services to Underserved Populations grants by $20 million;

• VAWA Training and Services to End Violence Against Women with Disabilities to provide victim services by $10 million; and

• VAWA Training and Services to End Abuse in Later Life to provide victim services by $10 million.

The letter also calls for increasing grant programs for support for particularly vulnerable communities, including our Tribes, and increasing deposits into the dwindling Crime Victims Fund to meet both the immediate needs of survivors and to deal with the lingering aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic. It also calls for providing paid safe leave for survivors and access to unemployment insurance if they are forced to leave their jobs due to domestic or sexual violence. 

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