Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, along with 40 of her Senate colleagues, are calling for over $300 million in federal funding for domestic violence resource providers as lawmakers and advocates fear COVID-19 stay-at-home orders could correlate with increased instances of domestic abuse and assault.
In a Monday letter to Senate leadership, written by Klobuchar and U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Bob Casey, D-Pa., the senators warned that, “Historically, instances of domestic violence have increased in times of national crisis,” and the COVID-19 pandemic could be particularly volatile for domestic violence victims.
Across the country, the senators said approximately 95 percent of Americans are under stay-at-home orders as governors attempt to mitigate the spread of the respiratory illness — “but for many, home is not a safe place.”
The National Domestic Violence Hotline reports abusers utilizing the pandemic to isolate and manipulate their victims, and rape crisis centers are reporting a greater need for resources, per Monday’s letter. The senators also said local law enforcement agencies are getting more domestic violence-related calls.
The senators noted that Congress’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed by President Donald Trump on March 27, already funded $45 million for domestic violence services funded through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), as well as $2 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. But that may not be enough, they said.
Particularly, the senators said the CARES Act did not include funding for domestic violence programs carried out by the Department of Justice, like support for sexual assault service providers, law enforcement, transitional housing programs for victims in need and organizations focusing on underserved populations.
Monday’s letter calls for a total of over $300 million in additional FVPSA funding to be allocated toward domestic violence shelters and resource centers, as well as tribal governments.
The senators noted that American Indian and Alaska Native communities face even greater challenges, with resources often already stretched thin and Native women historically facing higher rates of gender-based violence. The senators asked that “the federal government fulfill its trust responsibility to Indian Tribes by providing equitable resources to American Indian and Alaska Native communities to address domestic violence.”
Domestic violence is not limited to intimate partner violence. Children can be victims, too, and tens of millions of children are home thanks to the pandemic rather than at school during the day.
“Simply put, even though staying home is currently our best way to slow the spread of this deadly virus, home is not a safe place for people who experience domestic violence,” the senators said.
Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, both Democrats, also signed the letter. None of North Dakota or South Dakota’s senators did, nor did Wisconsin’s U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, all Republicans.