Shaheen, Hassan Join Effort Urging President Biden to Prioritize Funding for Violence Against Women Act Programs

March 10, 2021

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) in a letter to President Biden urging him to include strong support and funding for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs in his FY2022 budget. The Senators highlighted the importance of prioritizing this funding in light of increased reports of domestic violence during the pandemic, particularly as VAWA programs have not received supplemental funding, making it more difficult for service providers to respond to the increased need for crisis intervention, legal services and transitional housing.

“While the absence of supplemental funding has been challenging for all Department of Justice grantees, survivors of sexual assault and those from communities of color are in particular need,” the Senators wrote. “The Department provides the primary source of sexual assault supportive services through the Sexual Assault Service Program and currently funds the only grant program for community based organizations that provide services primarily focused on culturally specific communities.”

Others co-signing the letter include Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mark Warner (D-VA), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Shaheen is the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) and is a leader in Congress on efforts to combat domestic and sexual violence, and to bolster resources to help survivors stay safe, recover and seek justice. In the budget resolution passed last month, Shaheen successfully negotiated the inclusion of her amendment to provide support to organizations serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse, which cleared the Senate unanimously. In the COVID relief package recently released, Shaheen secured funding to support these efforts.

Throughout the pandemic, Shaheen and Hassan have worked to provide more resources and services to domestic violence survivors nationwide. Shaheen and Hassan have called on Congressional leadership to include additional funding to support the victims of family violence, domestic violence and dating violence in COVID-19 legislative packages. During the last Congress, Shaheen and Hassan introduced the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, strongly-supported bicameral legislation to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence.

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. She repeatedly and successfully adds the highest funding amounts for Violence Against Women Act programs in government funding bills.

Read the Senators’ full letter here or below:

Dear Mr. President,

We write to urge you to include strong support and funding for programs at the Department of Justice that provide services for victims and survivors of gender-based violence as you work to develop and transmit the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2022.

As the original author of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), you know that the programs authorized by VAWA are essential to helping people who experience domestic violence and sexual assault. Since the passage of VAWA in 1994, rates of intimate partner violence have decreased by 60 percent. The country has seen a decline in both the number of victims of intimate partner violence and the number of intimate partner homicides. Additionally, every state has now enacted laws making stalking a crime. VAWA represents a turning point in our country’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking.

Nevertheless, we are very concerned that, as a result of the pandemic, cases of domestic violence and sexual assault have increased in communities across the country. Local law enforcement report more domestic violence-related calls and rape crisis centers are seeing increased need for services. The pandemic has also made it more difficult for service providers to respond to the increased need for crisis intervention, legal services, and transitional housing. A recent survey found that 89 percent of survivor-serving programs need emergency funding to respond to current requests from survivors for support and assistance. Like many of the consequences of this pandemic, the continued shortage of resources disproportionately impacts Black and Latino communities, rural communities, and Alaskan Native and American Indian communities.

Although the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the relief package that passed with the Consolidated Appropriations Act last December included supplemental funding for programs authorized by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, no additional funding has been provided for VAWA programs at the Department of Justice. While the absence of supplemental funding has been challenging for all Department of Justice grantees, survivors of sexual assault and those from communities of color are in particular need. The Department provides the primary source of sexual assault supportive services through the Sexual Assault Service Program and currently funds the only grant program for community based organizations that provide services primarily focused on culturally specific communities.

Therefore, we respectfully request that you make funding these programs a priority. In particular, we urge you to include strong funding for the Sexual Assault Service Program, STOP Formula Grant Program (with added flexibility to fund victim service providers), Grants to Enhance Culturally Specific Services, Grants for Outreach and Services to Underserved Populations, the Legal Assistance to Victims Program, and the Transitional Housing Program. We additionally request that the federal government fulfill its trust responsibility to Indian Tribes by providing equitable resources to American Indian and Alaska Native communities to address gender-based violence.

Thank you for your leadership on these critical issues and your consideration of this request.

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