A victim of domestic violence is seen at a safe house in Nevada County, California, on August 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Consider the government shutdown an extension of the GOP’s efforts to cut essential services to American women and their families. Now in its eighth day, the government shutdown has already kicked 7,000 children out of Head Start, and endangered 9 million women and children on WIC, including 2,000 newborns in Arkansas that may not receive nutritional formula if the shutdown persists.
Add women fleeing domestic violence and sexual assault to the list of vulnerable populations that the shutdown puts at greater risk. On Friday, a domestic violence program in DC called Survivors and Advocates For Empowerment with an intake center just blocks from the Capitol announced that it needed to raise $19,000 in a week in order to provide shelter, emergency lock changes at victims’ homes, staff for the hotline and court advocates during the shutdown.
That’s because the federal agencies that administer funding for domestic violence programs have ceased operations, cutting shelters’ access to cash and to the Grants Management System that they use to allocate resources and communicate with grant managers. Typically, shelters are reimbursed at the end of the month for the services they provided; any of September’s expenses not paid out last week will remain on the books until Congress passes a budget resolution. Without federal funds, shelters are dependent on state governments and private donors, and many won’t be able to stretch this money past the next payroll.
“We’re two weeks from programs closing their doors,” said Cindy Southworth, vice president of the National Network to End Domestic Violence. At least 2,000 shelters nationwide rely on funds from the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, as well as the Violence Against Women Act and the Victims of Crime Act. As Bryce Covert reported at ThinkProgress, shelters in rural areas and small programs without a strong donor base will be the first forced to cut services.
In Solano County, California, the LIFT3 Support Group and Domestic Violence Shelter is taking a “scattered furlough” approach in order to keep the program open, asking staff to take one day off a week. The Denver Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, which provides crisis intervention, risk assessment and safety planning for battered women, will furlough its only staff member if it does not receive a reimbursement due from the Office on Violence Against Women. In Jasper, Texas, the Piney Woods Safe House lost 50 percent of its funding because of the shutdown. “Our day-to-day functions were about to change drastically,” said Wanda Whitcomb, the director of the ten-bed facility, before the community stepped in to save the shelter. “They knew how important what we do is.”