The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) denounces President Trump’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2019 and urges Congress to reject any funding priorities that harm victims and survivors of domestic and dating violence. The Trump Administration claims the budget invests in the prevention of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking; however, in actuality, it does just the opposite.This budget cuts many of the critical programs and services upon which victims and survivors rely by diverting funds away from victims, placing immigrant victims and survivors at greater risk of violence, cutting important economic supports (including SNAP, Medicaid, and the LSC), and cutting funding aimed at improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
The Administration claims the budget ‘fully funds’ the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA); this claim is false. The Administration budget funds VAWA at $100 million below the level authorized by Congress. Rather than showing a commitment to decreasing gender-based violence by investing taxpayer money in VAWA, the budget pays for the entirety of VAWA with a transfer from the Crime Victims Fund, a fund that is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders, not from tax dollars. This transfer is anticipated to decrease funding available to shelters and other direct service providers by up to almost 26%. Not only is this financially devastating for programs, it also diverts resources from victims to law enforcement. Both are necessary, and the presumption that they are equivalent is absurd. The budget and addenda also make recommendations that would empty the Crime Victims Fund, leaving no reserves or sustainability.
The Administration also included several budget requests and policy changes that put immigrant victims and survivors at greater risk of violence and abuse. We have previously expressed our concern about the detention and deportation of victims and survivors. We know that threatening detention and deportation leads to a decrease in immigrant victims’ willingness to reach out to law enforcement and report violence, or even to reach out to shelters for help. The President’s budget request both increases funding for immigration enforcement, it also includes a request to amend federal law to require grant recipients to cooperate with immigration enforcement - including VAWA recipients. These requirements are contrary to the very nature and purpose of VAWA, which is to protect and serve victims, not to further victimize and abuse them.
The budget request entirely eliminates the Legal Services Corporation (LSC), which provides legal services to low-income Americans. Many victims and survivors rely on LSC to help them obtain protective orders, divorce abusive spouses, get custody of children, and remain in their homes. An internal NCADV survey of member programs found that LSC lawyers represented almost half of domestic violence survivors with legal representation. LSC is vital to the safety and security of victims, survivors and their families.
The proposed cuts to important social safety net programs upon which victims and survivors rely to regain self-sufficiency will add barriers to victims seeking safety. Almost all victims of physical abuse also experience economic abuse; when they are able to escape, many leave with no economic resources at all. Roughly half of all homeless women say that domestic violence was the immediate cause of becoming homeless, while 80% of homeless mothers with children report being victims of domestic violence. Cuts to programs such as Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and adding work requirements that families in crisis might be unable to meet ultimately aid abusers who use the threat of destitution and homelessness for victims and their children as a tool of power and control.
Having failed to learn from recent tragedies, the budget request cuts funding for National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) improvement grants by 16%. Certain domestic abusers are prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms, but, as in the case of the Sutherland Spring shooter, they are able to pass firearms background checks, because the prohibiting records are never uploaded to the appropriate federal databases. NICS improvement funding aids local and state courts and law enforcement to ensure qualifying records are submitted to to the background check system.
NCADV applauds one recommendation in the President’s budget request, which is allowing Tribes to directly access VOCA funding. However, overall, the budget is takes away resources from those who need them most. NCADV opposes President Trump’s FY’19 budget request, and we urge Members of Congress to reject his requests.