Major cuts looming for victim services organizations

Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 7:11 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Domestic violence is a huge problem in Columbus and has been a major contributor to the city’s surging murder rates.

Two local organizations that help in the fight are facing cuts and they say this would cause major problems.

“We don’t want additional funds,” said Lindsey Reis, executive director of Hope Harbor. “We want to maintain at the level we are.”

That’s the message from two organizations in the city. Hope Harbor and the Center at 909. Both help victims who have experienced trauma in sexual assault and domestic violence.

But their funding is potentially going to see major cuts this year - all while the job demands are skyrocketing.

“We provide emergency shelter for victims who are in immediate danger,” Reis said. " We have a 43-bed facility where we are open 24/7, one of the largest in Georgia.

“Very important thing is forensic medical exams,” said Kyle Bair, executive director at The Center at 909. “Victims have the choice to come here for that forensic medical examination. We have trained sexual assault nurses and we need to be able to continue that vital service.”

Roughly 80% of funding for these centers in the state come from the federal funding - the victims of crime act. The funds in that pool have dwindled significantly over the past years.

Seeing a problem and correcting it, President Biden changed the way these organizations are funded or the future, but that won’t help this year.

In Georgia this year, projections are for a 37% percent reduction in funds for victim services.

“In hotel and motel stays alone, we’ve put over $100k back into the local economy,” said Reis. “We spend over $40k on groceries. That’s money that goes back into our community to serve our area.”

In Georgia, $4.8 billion can be directed to different areas of that state by order of the governor. These are American Rescue Plan funds.

“If we lose any of those dollars, we’ll be unable to offer 24/7 assistance,” said Bair. “We hope Governor Kemp will backfill those dollars.”

If this year’s cuts take effect, domestic violence and sexual assault centers across Georgia say it could see 400 employees in this field lose their jobs this year.

The governor has sole discretion over where those funds can be allocated from the American Rescue Plan.

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