This blog post was originally published on 1/5/19. As NCADV receives updates, we will edit this post.
The Violence Against Women Act (“VAWA”) is one of the pillars of the federal government’s response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking. Initially passed in 1994, VAWA has been reauthorized three times, each time expanding and updating to meet the needs of victims, survivors, advocates, and other stakeholders. In coalition with our partners in the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (“NTF”), we have dedicated much of the past two years to creating and building support for what will be the fourth VAWA reauthorization. It is time, and past time, for Congress to take real action and pass a reauthorization that maintains current protections for victims; invests in prevention; protects victims and survivors from armed abusers; and ensures all victims and survivors, including Native survivors, have access to justice and to safety.
What is VAWA’s current status?
VAWA’s authorization lapsed (“expired”) at midnight on December 21, 2018. VAWA is currently unauthorized.
UPDATE (1/17/19): NCADV has just learned that VAWA grantees can continue to draw down funds as normal until further notice. The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) remains fully operational and is currently accepting grant applications. Grant application deadlines will not be extended due to the shutdown. We encourage grantees to contact their program managers with further questions.
What does this mean?
VAWA funding is not in danger in the long term. Federal discretionary funding goes through two processes: authorization and appropriation. When Congress authorizes a program, it gives the Appropriation Committee permission to fund the program. The Appropriations Committees decide how much money a program actually gets. Appropriators frequently fund unauthorized programs – VAWA was unauthorized between 2010 and 2013 and was still funded. Only grant programs need to be authorized; the rest of VAWA never “expires.”
How did we get here?
The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, of which NCADV is a member, has been working with the domestic violence and sexual assault fields and with Congress to develop a comprehensive VAWA reauthorization that includes vital but modest enhancements and targeted fixes designed to garner bipartisan support. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) introduced H.R.6545, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018.
Instead of taking meaningful action and passing H.R.6545, Congress chose to put off reauthorizing VAWA with vital enhancements by extending its authorization past the October 1st deadline in successive short-term continuing resolutions that funded the federal government. When the last continuing resolution ended, so did VAWA’s authorization.
What happens next?
Make no mistake—we need a full and enhanced reauthorization of VAWA to ensure funding in future years, but at the current time, what we really need is for Congress and the President to reach an agreement on funding and fully reopen the government. That will give the field time to work with Congress to pass an enhanced VAWA authorization.
We expect Representative Jackson Lee to re-introduce the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act very early in the 116th Congress, with bipartisan support. The House has signaled that VAWA reauthorization is among its very top priorities for the first 100 days. We look forward to continuing to work with Congress to pass a VAWA reauthorization with important improvements to meet the needs of victims, survivors, and direct service providers.