Every year, the need for and cost of services for domestic violence victims goes up. PCADV actively works for increases in funding to keep pace with these growing needs.
Budget season enters the home stretch in Harrisburg
Advocates from PCADV's and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape’s community-based programs across the state converged on the Capitol on April 29 to remind members of the Legislature that safety for victims of domestic violence and their children must be a priority in the 2014-15 budget. Each of our 253 Legislators received a doughnut with teal icing representing the symbol of the national “NO MORE” campaign.
The Governor’s proposed 10 percent increase to the state budget line item for domestic violence services in fiscal year 2014-15 would translate to $1.4 million in additional funding for our programs. The proposed funding increase is a crucial step toward stabilizing funds for serving victims in every Pennsylvania county. However, the revenue projections are forecasting a $1 billion deficit from the $29.4 billion budget proposed by the Governor in February.
Three Sources, Ever-Increasing Need
Domestic violence programs in Pennsylvania receive federal funding from primarily three sources:
PCADV is an active member of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), which is the leading national advocacy group working to increase federal funding for domestic violence services.
The federal appropriations process can be complicated, and action needs to be timely in order to be effective. To learn more about the budget and appropriations process, along with the timeline for action, see Overview of the Budget Process – State and Federal.
The costs of providing shelter, counseling, and advocacy for victims all across the state, 24 hours per day, is staggering. Beyond the usual costs of any business, domestic violence shelters also must pay for the expenses required of running a 24-hour residential facility, including food and clothing for victims and their children in shelter, heat and other utilities, and gasoline for transportation to court and medical appointments.
Programs all across the state report drastic cuts and consequences. For example:
- One program reports that staffing decreases in children's counseling and advocacy have caused a drop of 52% in children's services.
- Another reduced its community education by 80% and eliminated school programs.
- Another closed its Legal Advocacy office.
- Another program had to eliminate services for children, and saw its shelter capacity drop from 17 to 1 because of insufficient staff to provide services.
Impact On Victim Safety
Cutting program staff directly affects victims:
- For example, if one Legal Advocate position helps 250 victims per year with obtaining PFA orders, accompanying victims as they face their abusers in the court room, and accessing and understanding available legal remedies, then the loss of that one position means 250 victims will not receive those essential services.
Beyond providing essential intervention services directly to victims, programs also are responsible for guiding and coordinating their communities' response to domestic violence and initiating broad prevention initiatives. Lack of sufficient funding will result in lost opportunities to change attitudes, improve systemic responses, and prevent future abuse.
In sum, Pennsylvania's domestic violence programs are struggling to maintain operations and respond to requests for help from thousands victims and their children annually. Now, throughout the state, programs have had to lay off staff and cut back on community education and prevention efforts, have had to implement waiting lists for services, have had to bus victims to another program in another county because the shelter was full to capacity. Again, the situation is dire, and programs do not have the ability to sustain services without additional funding.
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Abigail Hurst, LSW
Contact for information about PCADV’s Public Policy work
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