PROVIDENCE — Governor Dan McKee is throwing his support behind a proposal that would place much-needed investments into the state’s services that support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
“We know COVID-19 has exacerbated domestic violence in our state. Investment is needed to support survivors, particularly with housing,” wrote McKee in a letter to state Senator Ryan Pearson, who also serves as the chairman for the Senate Committee on Finance.
We know COVID-19 has exacerbated domestic violence in our state. At the same time, RI has seen a reduction in federal Victims of Crime Act funding since its peak in 2018. That’s why we’re proposing $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to support this crucial work. pic.twitter.com/MbA1QhNsSP— Governor Dan McKee (@GovDanMcKee) March 29, 2022
Last week, the National Network to End Domestic Violence released their annual “Domestic Violence Counts” report said that in Rhode Island, where it reported that more than 90 percent of domestic violence victims could not access housing or emergency shelter.
“We know that domestic violence disproportionately impacts women, children, people of color, and other marginalized groups,” wrote McKee. But Rhode Island has experienced a 66 percent reduction in federal Victims of Crime Act funding since its peak in 2018.
McKee proposed using $4.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to support these services, and that these funds will be allocated to invest in the nonprofit community to provide “additional housing clinical and mental health services to victims of domestic violence, and sexual assault.”
McKee said these increased investments could also be put toward therapy and counseling, housing assistance, job training, relocation aid, and case management.
According to the Coalition there was a 6 percent increase in individual service provisions, a 69 percent increase in the number of those receiving transitional housing, a 27 percent increase in the number of incoming calls to the statewide domestic violence hotline, and a 116 percent increase in the number of counseling services needed to domestic violence survivors.
“The housing crisis is really impacting domestic violence victims. There’s just less affordable housing, so victims are staying in shelter much longer than they ever had to,” said Lucy Rios, the interim executive director Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in a phone interview with the Globe recently.
Rios, who has worked for the coalition for the since 2003 but just started leading the organization in January, said victims who could not access emergency shelter or housing likely stayed with their abuser or slept in their cars.
The proposal was first introduced by House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin L. Abney in the state budget.