ACT NOW: Phase Four Funding Must Include Domestic Violence Protections

As the government plans Phase 4 of stimulus relief, it is important that Congress address the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable populations: domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. (Unsplash)

Updated May 6, 5:15 p.m. PST.

As the federal government plans Phase 4 of stimulus relief to stem the triage caused by the coronavirus, it is important that Congress address the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable populations with appropriate resources and economic support.

One of these populations is domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, especially since staying at home increases the likelihood of this type of violence and abuse.

Programs and organizations serving these survivors are experiencing more requests for their services; a survey by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) revealed that 40 percent of programs that help survivors have seen a rise in demand of their resources since the beginning of the pandemic.

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Furthermore, these programs are receiving fewer donations to make said services available, according to the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (NTF).

The NAESV survey also indicated that 89 percent of the programs need federal stimulus funding in order to continue serving the survivors in need.

In anticipation of this next package, NTF spearheaded an organizational letter and encouraged national, state and local organizations to sign it by April 17.

About 600 organizations across the U.S.—including Amnesty International USA, NAACP, Justice for Migrant Women and more—signed on to the letter, which read:

“As the nation is increasingly mandated or urged to stay home or social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are starkly reminded that ‘home’ is an unsafe place for those experiencing domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse. It is imperative that the next stimulus package address survivors’ needs—directly and via the programs that serve them.”

NFT’s requests included funding and reduced “procedural bureaucratic burdens” from the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They also focused on providing survivors with economic support and the assurance of immigrant rights.

The letter emphasized the increased needs of “survivors of color, Native survivors, immigrant survivors, LGBTQ survivors, survivors with disabilities, survivors who are older adults, and survivors from other underserved communities”—understanding that their access to resources may already be limited.

Deborah Vagins is the president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), an organization a part of the NTF. She said that the third COVID stimulus package added some funding and policy changes for survivors—but not enough. 

“Shelters and programs are open, but there may be a surge after these [social distancing] orders are lifted, and we also know that economic strains are going to persist,” Vagins said. “So, the requests in this letter are very important now and in the foreseeable future.”

Terri Poore, policy director of NAESV, said the task force must wait to hear Congress’s decisions.

“I feel hopeful. I mean, I always feel a little guardedly hopeful with Congress,” Poore said. “We have yet to see what the scope of the package is going to be.”

Take Action

As the House is finalizes its “phase four” COVID-19 response package, it is critical this package meets the needs of survivors.

The campaign is making its final push for constituents to contact their members of Congress—especially those in the House—to advocate for the phase four package to contain provisions to directly address the needs of survivors and the people who serve them. 

According to NTF, the package must:

  • Include $100 million in additional funding for the Sexual Assault Services Program;
  • Include emergency VAWA funding to states for victim services with funding for Tribes and culturally specific-services; 
  • Fund the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act; 
  • Include funding for grants for outreach to underserved communities;
  • Address the housing needs of survivors;
  • Meet the economic needs of survivors;
  • Address the long term impact on survivors by redirecting funds from deferred and non-prosecution agreements from the General Treasury to the Crime Victims Fund; 
  • Temporarily waive match requirements for federal grants; and
  • Ensure immigrants have access to health, safety, and stability—including access to testing and treatment and restricting immigration enforcement.

Find your senators’ contact information here; and your representatives’ here. Explore Congressional social media handles here.

The coronavirus pandemic and the response by federal, state and local authorities is fast-moving. During this time, Ms. is keeping a focus on aspects of the crisis—especially as it impacts women and their families—often not reported by mainstream media. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.


Fiona is a journalism student at the University of Southern California. When not in the office nor in class, she is often found photographing her friends, attending local concerts and eating sourdough toast.