Sexual assault and domestic violence organizations see their budgets slashed by 18%

GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) — Organizations that help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault are taking yet another hit in their wallets.

Leaders of an upstate nonprofit said they were concerned about the future.

“There are so many things we could do. There are so many people we could help, but we are so constrained by these budget cuts that we have to continue to operate essentially in the raw,” said Chelsey Hucker, executive director of Foothills Alliance.

This is the story of many state nonprofits that provide direct services to victims of domestic and sexual assault.

“We’re taking another 18% cut, which is about another $100,000,” Hucker said.

Hucker said this is in addition to nearly $250,000, which has been cut from their budgets in other grant cycles.

“So in three years we’ve lost about 20% of our operating budget,” Hucker said. “When an agency our size loses 20% of our operating budget, when a nonprofit loses 20% of its operating budget, it forces you to get creative, especially in a pandemic.

Leaders said federal funding for the Victims of Crime Act has declined. This is a non-taxable funding stream managed by the Department of Justice. Money comes from criminals through fines and court costs.

“What happened was they got money from a federal fund called VOCA – Victims of Crime Act. This money comes from fines and fees. Most of the money comes from fines and costs in court cases, and then that turns around and goes to organizations that help victims. In this way, the taxpayers do not pay, it is not the tax money that comes out of a normal budget, it is the criminals who pay to help the victims. So it works really well,” Robert Kittle, Director of Communications, with the SC Attorney General’s Office.

The impacts are being felt across South Carolina.

“When you look at these reductions compounded over the years, you get sort of like 40% or 50% from where they were four years ago,” Sara Barber said.r, SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault. “It’s potentially very damaging, and not only have we seen a high demand for service during COVID, but we’ve also had to change the way services are delivered, which leads to extra expense in many ways, like if you couldn’t safely house people in a communal shelter, so you’re looking at either apartments or hotel rooms, all of which are more expensive. Barber said. “We have decreasing funding, additional costs, and then also the impact of COVID on people’s ability to organize fundraising events, because private funds are also another source of income to support these services,” said Barber said.

“With the increase in our number of customers, we cannot reduce the workforce. We are already fully booked for forensic interviews until March. We have a six-month waiting list on our therapy services and we’re not the only ones,” Hucker said.

Hucker said they didn’t have to cut staff at Foothills Alliance, but had to get very creative, especially when it came to supplies.

“There are things we do with our own money, just to make sure we have everything we need, and that’s hard in a nonprofit world,” Hucker said.

Hucker said that’s why any additional help is appreciated.

“Our request to the community is to give. We can only continue to provide our services with your help,” Hucker said.

In South Carolina, the money is distributed by the state attorney general’s office. 7NEWS has learned that they hope to be able to restore some of this funding in future years.

“So it’s not a matter of someone saying, we don’t like victims of crime, let’s cut the money for them, it’s just a matter of big pot of money theirs has gone down. So there’s less money for everybody,” Kittle said. “We think 2023 will be better because, what’s happened is that Congress corrected.

“Our hope for the future is that the VOCA fix will actually start showing, start paying off in 2023. You obviously know that’s our hope,” Hucker said.

To see how you can help Foothills Alliance, click here.

Click here to learn more about the SC Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.

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