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Domestic, sexual abuse survivors feel the effects of the government shutdown

The Department of Justice usually provides funding to groups that assist abuse survivors.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Organizations that assist victims of sexual and domestic abuse are feeling the effects of the partial government shutdown.

Several organizations told WUSA9 the Department of Justice [DOJ] announced it may not be able to provide them with previously promised funding due to a lapse in federal appropriations.

The Office of Violence Against Women, which is housed within DOJ, offers grants to organizations that help survivors of domestic and sexual abuse.

The Network of Victim Recovery DC (NVRDC) provides comprehensive case management and advocacy to survivors within the District.

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It received a three-year, $800,000 grant from the DOJ. The grant allows NVRDC to incur upfront costs to provide services to survivors.

"We seek reimbursement from the federal government on a monthly basis and we've been told by that office, as of January 18, there is not a certainty that we will be able to seek reimbursement and be paid," said NVRDC Executive Director Bridgette Stumpf.

She said her organization is in a better position than others because it also receives funds from the DC Mayors Office of Victims Services.

"The organizations that are going to be suffering are really those organizations that provide that acute, crisis emergency support for survivors who are in a life-threatening, dangerous situation," said Stumpf.

She also said clients who receive services from groups like hers are also being affected by the government shutdown.

"One of the real impacts that we saw was a client was trying to seek reimbursement for emergency moving expenses to go maintain stable housing," she said. "And, that cannot be processed right now."

The Anchor Fund provides emergency critical funding to survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence in DC.

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Its founder and executive director, Amy Goldberg, said her organization has received two requests in 24 hours for emergency funding from survivors due to circumstances stemming from the partial government shutdown.

Goldberg said one request came from a survivor who was trying to move her belongings from the house of her abuser. Unfortunately, the government funded program that was supposed to help the survivor complete that task was not able to provide the needed money.

Goldberg said the Anchor Fund stepped in to help the survivor, but she is worried whether her organization can cover additional, similar requests in an adequate fashion.

"We're concerned that this may continue to grow if funds are being cutoff to the local domestic violence organizations who are already completely strapped on a day-to-day basis," she said.

The Office of Violence Against Women told WUSA9 it emailed its grantees to tell them that their payments would be processed, at least, until January 18 at 6 a.m. A spokesperson added that should it become necessary, the Department will reassess at that time how it handles future grant payments.   

Here is a copy of the letter that the Office of Violence Against Women sent to grantees: 

“Dear OVW Award Recipient—

Happy New Year!  I know many of you have questions concerning your ability to access grant funds during the government shutdown.  The Grant Payment Request System (GPRS) is fully operational and processing payment requests.  At this juncture, I can report that payment requests will continue to be processed at least until January 18, 2019 at 6:00am.  

OVW has sufficient resources and remains open and fully operational at this time. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to reach out to your program specialist.   

If it appears that a lapse in FY 2019 appropriations will continue beyond January 18th, or if OVW open status changes, we will contact you regarding the potential impact on payment requests.”