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Domestic Violence Intervention Program to close three offices to offset federal funding cuts

Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 11:21 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Huge funding cuts are on the way for organizations across the country that support crime survivors and victims, and one of those groups, based in Iowa City, will be closing three of its offices in response.

The Domestic Violence Intervention Program, which serves eight counties in southeast Iowa, announced Monday that it will close its offices in Burlington, Keokuk, and Mt. Pleasant.

DVIP’s director of community engagement, Alta Medea-Peters, said this decision would allow the organization to keep all of its services and advocates in place and keep all of its shelters open.

“We are actually keeping all of the boots on the ground and reaching people where they are,” she said. “We have done mobile advocacy for a long time, meaning we go to meet survivors where they need us most and help them to safety plan around their own situations.”

While DVIP has dealt with routine challenges to its funding in its 40-plus-year history, no cut has been as large as the one it is about to face.

“We are looking at a 35% cut over the next two years,” Medea-Peters said, explaining that amounts to about $82,000 next year, a figure that will increase the year after that.

The funding cut is due to a dwindling balance in the national Crime Victims Fund, which was established in 1984 as part of the Victims of Crime Act, commonly known as VOCA. The CVF is expected to hit a 10-year low by the end of this year.

The money in this fund comes from fines and restitution paid by people convicted of federal crimes, not from taxpayers.

Nearly 40 U.S. Senators, including Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, signed a letter sent June 23 to leaders of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, requesting “the cap on the Crime Victims Fund should be set as high as possible during this year’s appropriations.”

According to the letter, the lowered balance in the CVF is a result of “federal prosecutors’ increased reliance on deferred- or no-prosecution agreements and the establishment of an appropriations cap on the distribution of money from the Fund. Additionally, $1.5 billion in the Fund was rescinded in 2015 to provide an offset for a budget agreement with the Obama Administration.”

DVIP and other victim service organizations are hoping for the passage of the VOCA Fix bill, a piece of legislation which Medea-Peters said would ensure they don’t face this same issue again in two years, though she added there is nothing they can do to reverse cuts in the next two years.

Grassley and Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst are co-sponsors of the bipartisan, bicameral bill, which passed through the House in March.

Grassley’s office said it is up to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat, to determine when a vote would happen.

“If the VOCA Fix does not go through, eventually, all of those dollars toward all crime victims, not just domestic violence, that bank would slowly, completely dwindle into zero,” Medea-Peters said.

The upcoming cut in funding comes as DVIP is responding to an increased need for its services over the last 15 months.

The organization reported calls to its crisis line have increased 28% each month since May of 2020, and because of the pandemic, emergency hotel expenses were 10 times higher than their previous year.

Medea-Peters said they do not anticipate that need slowing down in the near future.

“We absolutely have to have people step up and have municipalities and the government and sort of everybody step up and say that victims’ lives matter and show that with dollars,” she said.

DVIP provides free and confidential crisis intervention services by calling its 24-hour hotline at 1-800-373-1043.

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