Thursday, August 06, 2009

Help Keep Domestic Violence Shelters Open

Last week Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger elimated funding to the Department of Public Health's Domestic Violence program with a line-item budget veto. The Department of Public Health was scheduled to provide $16.3 million to 94 domestic violence shelters and centers in California.

“It is absolutely vital that we keep domestic violence shelters open,” said Senator Leland Yee, who voted against cuts to the domestic violence program. “The Governor’s veto increases health care, law enforcement and other costs to the state, but more critically, it puts victims of domestic violence and their children in grave danger.”

The Domestic Violence Program funds allow local agencies to provide emergency shelter, 24 hour crisis line support, transitional housing, and legal advocacy, as well as assistance with restraining orders, individual counseling, support groups and other essential services. Many agencies are considering closing down or laying off workers as a result of lack of funding.

Stacy Miller, a DVC director writes, “The startling news that 100% of State funding was eliminated has resulted in an emergency DVC Board of Directors meeting whereby we were informed that keeping our doors open is most likely not an option past December, 2009.

"As the only domestic violence agency in the Santa Clarita Valley, the result of closing our doors would be a complete lack of critical life and safety services for an entire community of over 250,000 residents. We are currently doing everything possible to raise additional funds, but it is very unlikely that we will be able to replace the $207,000+ that we lost last week in the next 4 months."

Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) on Tuesday August 4th was joined by domestic violence prevention leaders to announce legislation to help restore funding by taking $16.3 million from the victims’ compensation fund (which has a current balance of $136.2 million). If the bill he plans to introduce later this month is passed, money for the shelters and centers could be available in September.

“We are appalled to see the Governor eliminate funding to vital programs that save lives,” said Tara Shabazz, Executive Director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV). “The Governor is balancing the budget on the backs of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Funding must be restored by any means necessary; together with Senator Yee, CPEDV has found a potential solution to these disastrous cuts.”

Now more than ever it is important to urge California lawmakers to reinstate funding for these life-saving programs. To send a letter to lawmakers click here. I hope that if you live in California you are inspired to take action in a cause that could save lives.

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