Intimate Partner Violence: Getting the Money to Those on the Front Line

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PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 4, 2020
For Additional Information Contact:
Ethan Rarick
Executive Director
510-205-8042

Improve Payments to Domestic Violence Programs, Little Hoover Commission Urges

 

Organizations providing shelter and other services to survivors of intimate partner violence should receive their state funding in an up-front payment at the start of their grant, rather than having to wait months to have the money reimbursed later, California’s independent government watchdog recommended.

In a new report, “Intimate Partner Violence: Getting the Money to Those on the Front Line,” the Little Hoover Commission urged state policymakers to reform the state’s key anti-domestic violence program so that the state portion of funding is paid immediately. The full report is available on the Commission’s website at lhc.ca.gov.

“Currently, some providers take out a loan while they wait to have their expenses reimbursed by the state,” said Commission Chair Pedro Nava. “That makes no sense. The state’s policymakers can make changes to fix this problem.”

Intimate partner violence, also referred to as domestic violence, has a tragic impact on California. It is the leading cause of homicide of women, and one third of California women and one quarter of men will experience intimate partner violence and/or intimate partner stalking during their lifetimes, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. California law enforcement agencies field an average of 457 domestic violence calls each day.

Sadly, early evidence suggests that domestic violence has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shelters around the state have reported an increase in calls following the shelter-at-home orders. Shelters remain open and those who are experiencing intimate partner violence, or know someone who is, should call 1-800-799-SAFE.

The Commission’s report focuses on the Domestic Violence Assistance Program, which currently provides funding from both state and federal sources to approximately 100 organizations around California that provide services to survivors of intimate partner violence. The recipient organizations are funded equally, with each receiving about $500,000 per year – about $200,000 in state funding and the rest in federal funding.

Currently, the program’s recipients typically receive their grants as reimbursements for past expenses, although they may request to receive an advance payment of up to 25 percent of the state-funded portion of their grant, a limit set by state law.

At an October public hearing before the Commission and a January meeting of the Commission’s Advisory Committee on intimate partner violence, service providers described long waits for their reimbursements, and the Commission’s examination of the process found that reimbursements typically take 79 days at best, and sometimes even longer. In some cases, providers have taken out loans to stay afloat until the reimbursement is received.

In its report, the Commission recommended that the Legislature provide for a full advance payment of state funds received through the program.

“These organizations are doing extraordinary work under grueling and stressful conditions,” said Commissioner Janna Sidley, who chairs the Commission’s subcommittee on the state’s response to intimate partner violence. “The state should do everything possible to ease their financial situation and their paperwork burden. The answer is simple: Get the money out the door and into the hands of people who are doing such important work.”

The report noted that even with an advance payment of state funding, grant recipients would still face reporting and auditing requirements that the Commission believes are adequate to prevent fraud.

The state cannot change federal policy that requires a reimbursement model, and the Commission’s report does not address the federal requirement.

The Little Hoover Commission is California’s independent government watchdog, charged with recommending reforms that will improve efficiency or service in state government. The panel includes 13 Commissioners appointed by the Governor and legislative leaders – nine public members and four sitting members of the Legislature. No party may hold more than five of the public seats or two of the legislative seats, ensuring that the Commission’s recommendations reflect a variety of partisan viewpoints.