Nearly a month after receiving word that its Emergency Solutions Grant funding would be cut, Citizens Against Spouse Abuse Inc. has learned those grant dollars will remain in place.
Funded by the Missouri Department of Social Services through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, ESG money is the only grant CASA receives that relates directly to shelter services, which served 223 women and 209 children in 2013, said Executive Director Lori Haney.
“It’s an incredibly important grant for us, we’re able to use it for facility maintenance, fuel costs for CASA vehicles, equipment, utilities, basically anything that relates to the shelter,” she said. “It’s also been used for medical and prescription drug co-pays and therapy services for children.”
In February it was announced cuts of nearly $750,000 would be put in place for domestic violence shelters but Haney said thanks to collaborative efforts by shelter directors and the Missouri Collation Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Missouri Housing Development Commission allowed $1.5 million of its reserve funds to be released over the next two years, equaling out to the $750,000 per year that was cut.
“The director of Moss House in Nevanda, Mo. (a domestic violence shelter) was really the one who used the listserv to point out the funding that’s being cut is from rural shelters,” Haney said. “Through their work and the coalition lobbying and letting government officials and the legislature know exactly how these cuts would affect us, they brought the attention that we were losing a significant chunk of change.”
The restored funding is positive but it’s a Band-Aid to a bigger problem, Haney said.
“We’re still uncertain even after this grant cycle if we won’t be just in the same situation next year and right now it’s looking like maybe (grant funding) will maybe be even more grim in the 2016-2017 cycle,” she said. “A lot of it is up in the air which is why we’re taking proactive steps to look at when and if we have to replace this $50,000 in a year or two, what that’ll look like.”
Haney said replacement funding could come from foundation grants and fundraising initiatives, but stressed local donations as key.
“We have a wonderful community that is very generous,” she said. “As these federal and state grants are cut, we’re going to have to rely more and more on local sources.”
In addition to restoring ESG funding, there are other new developments on the state level, Haney added. For the first time the Missouri Legislature is considering putting a sexual assault line item in the state budget.
“The coalition has been lobbying for years to get a line item specifically for sexual assault. We do receive some federal sexual assault dollars to support sexual assault awareness activities, but a lot of state-level dollars are lumped in with domestic violence support,” she said. “Sexual assault is certainly a component of domestic violence, but it can also be a stand-alone issue.”
The line item issue has been passed by the Missouri House of Representatives and is currently in Missouri Senate committee. Haney encouraged area residents to contact Sen. Mike Parson and encourage him to vote for the item.
“The funding would be $500,000, which divvied up amongst everyone in the state would give CASA a few tens of thousands in funding,” she added. “I certainly don’t think it will replace ESG funding but it will help give sexual assault programs more priority.
“We’re always working to make sure we’re offering the best possible services for our survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I’m glad the ESG funding has been restored and there’s a good chance sexual assault awareness will be included in the budget, but we have to keep looking ahead and continuing to find sustainable funding sources.”