Shaheen, Hassan & Group of Senators Send Bipartisan Letter Urging Increased Support for Victims of Domestic Violence During the COVID-19 Pandemic

April 14, 2020

Senators Request Additional Funding for the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act and the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to Respond to Growing Domestic Violence Threat During Pandemic

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) – the lead Democrat of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Office on Violence Against Womensent a bipartisan letter with Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and a group of Senators to Senate leadership and appropriators requesting that additional funding and critical provisions to support the victims of family violence, domestic violence and dating violence be included in the anticipated fourth coronavirus (COVID-19) legislative package. As the nation engages in social distancing to combat the pandemic, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has reported contacts from victims, saying their abusers are taking advantage of the situation to further isolate them from their friends and family, with some abusers withholding financial resources or medical aid.

“As of the writing of this letter, more than 300 million Americans in 42 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, as well as in several cities, local municipalities and Tribal communities are being advised to stay at home if at all possible. About 54 million K-12 students are no longer going to school in person, and millions of adults are out of work. As the pandemic continues, we expect these numbers to rise, and as a consequence, so will incidents of domestic violence,” the Senators wrote. “…Simply put, even though staying home is currently our best way to slow the spread of this deadly virus, home is not a safe place for people who experience domestic violence. As a result, communities around the country are reporting increased demands on victim service providers, which are facing new difficulties and complexities in assisting survivors.“

The Senators request that a fourth supplemental package addressing the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Funding for shelters and supports, resource centers and technical assistance to support victims of domestic violence, including an additional $100 million for programs funded by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA);
  • Funding to coordinate language-accessible public outreach to hard-to-reach populations, including $100 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
  • Robust increases in emergency supplemental funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to prevent child abuse and neglect; and
  • Provisions to waive the matching requirements under FVPSA and under Title II of CAPTA so workers on the ground can swiftly respond to the needs of survivors during this public health crisis.

FVPSA serves as the primary federal funding source for supportive services for victims of domestic violence and their children, and funds the Domestic Violence Hotline.

Read the letter in full here.

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in the Senate to establish basic rights and protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Her bill, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, was signed into law in 2016 and created the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors and for the first time allowed survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. Last year, Shaheen introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act to build on the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act by incentivizing states to pass legislation that guarantees the survivors rights included in the federal legislation.

For the third year in a row, Senator Shaheen successfully added the highest funding amount ever for Violence Against Women Act programs in the fiscal year (FY) 2020 government funding legislation, totaling $502.5 million. Shaheen is the Ranking Member of the Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee that writes the funding legislation for Department of Justice programs, which operates the Office on Violence Against Women.