Domestic violence prevention bridge funds bill released

The Assembly Women and Children’s Committee released bill A3715, which would appropriate $1 million to the state Department of Law and Public Safety that would serve as a bridge to support agencies receiving Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grants.

The VAWA grants are at risk of being stripped from the states across the country due to congressional inaction. The bill states that the bridge funding would be made available to VAWA grantees who will be forced to close their doors on March 1 when the federal funding under VAWA ceases. These grants would allow agencies to provide limited services until Congress reauthorizes VAWA grant funding.

In 2012, New Jersey and other entities received $5.7 million in VAWA grants from the federal Department of Justice.

Heads of domestic violence prevention agencies said the federal funds are invaluable, since they provide many services and programs, such as shelters, hotlines, domestic violence response teams, and legal help, among other things.

Michelle Pollack, of the Camden County Women’s Center, said the center currently provides a 24-hour hotline along with shelters, case managers, and advocates focusing on housing, municipal court and law.

Pollack said in 2012, some 200 women and children were housed in shelters and about 1,000 referrals regarding domestic violence and child abuse were received.

VAWA funds helped provide services to 2,600 victims through WAVA funding.

“Without safe families, we can’t have safe communities,” she said. “We can’t do that with funding cuts. We can barely do that with the funding we have now.”

Sandy Clark, of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, said it would be devastating if the VAWA funding cuts went into effect.

Her agency provides several programs, including domestic violence response teams and  a social justice program  that helps marginalized segments of the population.

Assemblywoman Caroline Casagrande, (R-11), of Colts Neck, asked how the money would be divided if the $1 million was appropriated. Clark could not provide a breakdown, though.

Clark said that women stuck in poverty are at a significantly higher risk than women in other socioeconomic classes.  

In addition, the committee released bill A3472, which establishes the New Jersey Task Force on domestic violence and abuse.

Domestic violence prevention bridge funds bill released