Casey, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Aid Domestic Violence Prevention and Support Programs During COVID-19 Pandemic

Casey, Murkowski’s POWER Act to Ensure Domestic Violence Organizations Can Access Federal Funding During Public Health Emergency

Casey, Murkowski Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Aid Domestic Violence Prevention and Support Programs During COVID-19 Pandemic

Washington, D.C. – At a time when organizations supporting survivors of family, domestic and dating violence are seeing an increase in need for services, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) are introducing the Protect Our Women and Waive Emergency Requirements (POWER) Act. The POWER Act would temporarily waive the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) requirement that organizations must match federal funding amounts through cash or in-kind donations. This bill is especially important at a time when many organizations may be unable to meet the matching requirement, as they have had to cancel traditional fundraising events or opportunities to receive in-kind donations (goods, services or time) due to social distancing guidelines. This reprieve would ensure organizations can continue to access federal funding so they can provide vital support to those in crisis. U.S. Representatives Lucy McBath (D-GA-6) and Ben Cline (R-VA-6) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, family violence, domestic violence and dating violence continue to be a public health crisis in this country. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 1,600 people died from domestic violence-related incidents during the last decade,” said Senator Casey. “We are concerned about the potential rise in domestic violence because families are staying at home during the pandemic, while organizations who help survivors are struggling to provide services with strained resources. This legislation is an important step towards addressing violence in our communities, and I urge my colleagues to make sure survivors across America have the support they need during this pandemic.”

“Under normal circumstances, FVPSA subgrantees are required to provide a nonfederal match for the funds they receive—but we are not operating under normal circumstances. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant financial strain on Alaskans, including those that provide support and services for victims of domestic violence. This legislation will help provide greater certainty for places of refuge and support during these difficult and uncertain times,” said Senator Murkowski. “One unintended result of the COVID-19 stay-at-home orders has been an increase in calls to police departments with reports of domestic violence. The harsh reality is— shelter in place orders do not necessarily mean safe shelter for many Alaskans. Passing this legislation will give much-needed financial relief to organizations across Alaska, allowing them to continue to provide services at a time when they are needed the most.”

"During these unprecedented times of COVID-19, YWCAs across the country have seen a sharp increase in demand for services but decreases in revenue," said YWCA USA CEO Alejandra Y. Castillo. "The waiver of FVPSA’s funding match requirement ensures the continuity of services in the face of this fiscal reality. We thank Senators Casey and Murkowski for addressing this important priority and look forward to working together on YWCA’s additional child care, housing, and domestic violence priorities to meet the needs of women and their families during and after the COVID-19 pandemic."

FVPSA is the primary federal funding source dedicated to the support of emergency shelter and assistance for victims of domestic violence and their children. The POWER Act would waive the matching requirement for fiscal years 2019 and 2020, as well as for any grants awarded after the date of enactment during the period of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

In April, Senator Casey led a letter with Senators Murkowski and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to Senate leadership and appropriators requesting an additional $100 million for FVPSA, an FVPSA set-aside for Tribes and Tribal organizations and at least $100 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to coordinate public outreach to hard-to-reach populations.

In addition to the YWCA USA, the POWER Act is supported by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Network to End Domestic Violence and Futures without Violence.

Read the Protect Our Women and Waive Emergency Requirements (POWER) Act here.

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