NH Delegation Pushes for Expanded Housing Options for Domestic Violence Survivors in Next Covid-19 Package

May 01, 2020

WASHINGTON – Amid concerns of increasing domestic violence as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen and Representatives Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas are pushing for additional funding to expand housing options for domestic violence survivors in the next COVID-19 emergency package.

“While public health experts continue to advise Americans to stay at home for their own safety, for victims of domestic violence, staying home with their abusers could be extremely dangerous. Victims of domestic violence and their children need places to stay where they can practice social distancing while also remaining safe from their abusers,” the Congressional Delegation wrote in a letter to Congressional leadership.

The Congressional Delegation continued, “Any future COVID-19 legislation must contain additional funding and measures that address the housing needs of domestic violence victims. These measures could take many forms, such as through additional grant program funding, housing vouchers, or partnerships with hotels to house domestic violence victims in currently vacant rooms. And future legislation should recognize, expand and support the important work happening at the state level, in places like New Hampshire, to help victims and survivors of domestic violence.”

As the Congressional Delegation notes in their letter, New Hampshire is leading efforts to address the rise in domestic violence as a result of COVID-19 by dedicating funding and resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence.

Additionally, the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation is working to provide more resources and services to domestic violence victims nationwide. Senators Hassan and Shaheen have called on Congressional leadership multiple times to include additional funding to support the victims of family violence, domestic violence and dating violence in the fourth COVID-19 legislative package.

Senator Shaheen has long-championed legislation to protect and empower survivors of domestic and sexual violence from housing discrimination. In December, Shaheen introduced the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2019, which would set a nationwide standard that survivors cannot be evicted or otherwise denied access to housing for being victims of those crimes. She also introduced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Housing Act, which would make it easier for victims to bring forward certain cases of sexual harassment under the Fair Housing Act. The lead Democrat of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds Violence Against Women Act programs, Shaheen successfully added the highest funding amount ever for Violence Against Women Act programs in fiscal year 2020 government funding legislation, totaling $502.5 million.

Read the letter here or below:

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Shelby, Vice Chairman Leahy, Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Chairwoman Lowey, and Ranking Member Granger:

We write to bring your attention to the urgent need for housing resources for victims of domestic violence during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We also write to recognize the work that has been done in New Hampshire to address this need and request that any future COVID-19 relief legislation include solutions and funding that address the housing needs of domestic violence victims.

A recent United Nations brief highlights the emerging link between social distancing measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic and an increase in domestic violence. According to the brief, reports of domestic violence “have increased in several countries as security, health, and money worries create tensions and strains accentuated by the cramped and confined living conditions of lockdown.” While public health experts continue to advise Americans to stay at home for their own safety, for victims of domestic violence, staying home with their abusers could be extremely dangerous. Victims of domestic violence and their children need places to stay where they can practice social distancing while also remaining safe from their abusers.

New Hampshire has been a leader in addressing this emerging link between social distancing measures and the rise in domestic violence, dedicating resources to serve and house survivors. Last week, Governor Sununu approved a grant application from the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, ensuring dedicated funding and resources for victims of domestic and sexual violence during the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the New Hampshire Congressional delegation have signed on to numerous letters to federal agencies requesting that they take steps to increase the resources and services available to domestic violence victims nationwide.

We appreciate that the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act contained $45 million in funding for domestic violence services through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act and $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. We are also encouraged that the CARES Act includes funding for the Legal Services Corporation and Emergency Solutions Grants, which can be used to address some of the legal and housing needs of individuals who are experiencing or have experienced domestic violence.

However, more is needed to address this urgent public health crisis. Any future COVID-19 legislation must contain additional funding and measures that address the housing needs of domestic violence victims. These measures could take many forms, such as through additional grant program funding, housing vouchers, or partnerships with hotels to house domestic violence victims in currently vacant rooms. And future legislation should recognize, expand and support the important work happening at the state level, in places like New Hampshire, to help victims and survivors of domestic violence.

We urge you to support victims and survivors of domestic violence and recognize the work that Granite Staters have taken to address this problem. Thank you for your attention to this important matter and your consideration of this request.