Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz held a press conference together with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Waterbury elected officials to praise Governor Lamont’s $18 million proposal to fill a gap in victim services and expand emergency housing assistance for survivors of domestic violence.
One part of the proposal would allocate $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) in FY2023 for the Judicial Branch Office of Victim Services to fill the gap created reductions in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) assistance, a major funding stream for several victim services organizations across the U.S.
If the above ARPA proposal is authorized by the General Assembly, the Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV) would receive approximately $4 million for the Safe Connect program and for services to victims of family violence. The total budget investment would enable a wide array of victim services organizations to provide assistance with basic needs, safety planning, crisis counseling, mental health treatment, and other services.
“Domestic violence has a profound impact not only on individuals, children, families and friends, but on entire communities.,” said Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz. “In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic peaked and more people stayed home, we saw a stark rise in domestic violence reports. Our administration knew that we had to do something to address this uptick to prevent harm in the future, and to provide resources and opportunities for victims. Today, we want to remind women that they are not alone, that they have options, and that we are here to support them.”
Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz and State Re. Larry Butler listened as State Rep. Geraldo Reyes spoke at a press conference in Waterbury today.
The second part of the proposal would allocate an additional $3 million in ARPA in FY2023 for pandemic-related domestic violence victim needs, such as hoteling, food, transportation costs, basic needs, childcare assistance, housing, moving, utilities, and furniture assistance.
If this funding item is authorized, the Department of Social Services would expand its contract with CCADV to increase and expand services. The COVID-19 pandemic has aggravated conditions — including isolation, insecurity, and stress — that place victims at heightened risk. It also has erected barriers to make it more challenging for victim services organizations to reach people in need of assistance.
“I want to thank Governor Lamont for this proposed funding and the Lt. Governor for her continued leadership on this issue,” said CCADV Executive Director Meghan Scanlon. “What this proposal means statewide is that we can maintain services for DV victims that have been incredibly impacted over the course of this pandemic. Domestic violence has been a public health crisis for a long time and will not let up once the masks come off. Without this funding, we would not be able to provide our Safe Connect hotline, court advocates for victims, and our crisis response and safety planning staff that help put together basic necessities for individuals would not exist. This funding is critical to continue the services we provide.”
In Connecticut, nearly 40,000 victims reach out each year to CCADV and its 18 member organizations for help. These organizations provide critical support to victims including counseling, support groups, emergency shelter, court advocacy, safety planning, and lethality assessment, among other services.
“Safe Haven is a dual crisis agency, providing services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Safe Haven of Greater Waterbury Executive Director Lee Schlesinger. “The $2.9 to support survivors needs in the Governor’s proposal will help with things like putting clients in hotels due to overflow or shelter decompression. Clients also often need help with security deposits, purchasing furniture and moving expenses, and our current operating budget cannot support those costs. The second part of the funding addresses the VOCA funding gap, which accounts for 45% our annual budget. It is crucial to fill the VOCA funding gap to keep these life-saving services available to those in need across the state.”
“These shelters and services are a lifeline for many people. If victims can get here, places like Safe Haven can help save their life,” said State Representative Geraldo Reyes. “I don’t talk about it much, but my mother was a domestic violence survivor. As a young child, about 9 or 10, it’s hard to grasp. Domestic violence is real, I have experienced it, and I thank the Governor for this proposal. It has my full support.”
“The Waterbury delegation is dedicated to providing all of the support needed for this proposal,” said State Representative Larry Butler. “We know the impact that domestic violence has in our community and across the state. These crucial programs and services provide support to not only victims, but their families. Addressing domestic violence helps to restore families, and we are here to support them.”