Iowa Legislative Proposed Budget Slashes Victim Services Funding by 26%

On April 12, 2017, the Justice Systems Appropriations Subcommittee proposed their SFY18 budget. Legislators proposed a 26% cut in funding for victim services: $5 million for victim assistance grants compared to previous years’ $6.7 million. Victim assistance grants provide crucial support and resources to survivors of sexual violence and domestic abuse.

 

“This type of cut is devastating – we’ve creatively restructured and reorganized and reduced every expense we can to keep our shelter and emergency services available.  We will be forced to eliminate services and have to say no because there are just not enough dollars to pay for the support people victims need to get to safety and independence from a violent partner,” stated Kristie Fortmann-Doser, Executive Director of the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP).  DVIP serves eight counties in Iowa – Cedar, Des Moines, Henry, Iowa, Johnson, Lee, Van Buren and Washington Counties.

 

“Many people don’t know that 15 years ago there were 37 programs in Iowa to support victims. Over the years we have lost so much.  There are now only 8 emergency shelters in Iowa and 18 programs statewide,” added Fortmann-Doser.

 

Three years ago in response to the many years of cuts, the Iowa Attorney General’s office restructured victim services.  They created a model that successfully increased the number of victims reached by 66% – nearly 47,000 victims of domestic and sexual violence.

 

Cuts create a ripple effect that gravely diminishes the capacity of all agencies to provide core, comprehensive services. Last year the Domestic Violence Intervention Program served 1,989 women, children, and men in their eight county service area.  In some of DVIP’s rural counties, the new model has facilitated reaching many more victims. For example, Cedar County has seen a 122% increase in victims served so far this year.  As a result of the cuts, rural areas will be disproportionately impacted.

 

Limiting access and options for safety:

  • Threatens the capacity of staff emergency services 24/7, e.g. crisis help lines, crisis counseling; emergency assistance to police and health care providers.
  • Limits/eliminates local access: rural outreach offices will close or reduce hours so victims unable to travel will be geographically isolated from providers or wait longer to receive services.
  • Limits crisis service options: less time with each client; less capacity to provide walk-in services.
  • Limits capacity to provide post-crisis services for long-term success and independence from a violent partner: job assistance; financial literacy education; referrals for health care, child care.

 

“Unfortunately it’s not as simple as just leaving an abusive relationship, especially when we know abusers on average stalk and harass their former partner for 21 months after they leave.  So many of our services are about assisting victims after the decision to leave.  Yes, we provide for the emergency, helping someone get out, but it’s what happens next that determines if someone has the capacity to remain independent and safe from someone that uses violence to get what they want,” states Fortmann-Doser.

 

Compounding the situation is the impact on federal funding. State funds are used to “match” and make Iowa victim service programs eligible for federal funds. A 26% cut will also mean many victim services programs will no longer be eligible for their current federal funds, or will have the amount they receive reduced to correspond to state losses.

 

“It could mean as many as 35% of victims in our area (696 adults and youth) will have no avenue for escape or reprieve from violence,” stated Fortmann-Doser.

 

The numbers on the statewide level are startling. With $6.7 million in state funding in SFY16 victim service programs in Iowa provided safety and comprehensive services to 46,643 victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and other violent crime (66% increase since 2013). Agencies also provided safe housing to 4,853 victims of violence – allowing these individuals & families 102,169 nights away from a violent partner. Iowa’s two statewide helplines, staffed 24/7 year round, answered 22,747 calls from victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence last year.

 

Victim served FY16 v. fewer served w/ 26% cut

 FY16# fewer w/ 26% cut
Domestic abuse29,8057,749
Sexual Assault10,0112,602
Other violent crime6,8271,775
TOTAL receiving services46,64312,127
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
TOTAL Victims Sheltered

             

 

Shelter Nights

4,852

 

 

102,169

1,191

For more information call the Domestic Violence Intervention Program at 319-356-9863 ext. 2.