Urgent action is needed to ensure that DV service providers have the funding required to maintain services to as many of New York’s DV victims as possible. To make a united effort and increase our impact, we are asking advocates to contact their NYS Senators and Assemblymembers. Below you will find Talking Points and helpful Q&A.
Talking Points and Q&A
1. Support DV Staffing by Setting Living Wage Floor of No Less than $21/hour for All State-funded Human Services Workers and Providing an 8.5% COLA to All State-Funded Human Services Contracts
Domestic violence advocates are essential, frontline workers whose work requires specialized skills and training. It is also a 24/7 job, requiring them to meet DV survivors where they are – at the police station, in court or the hospital – to provide critical, life-stabilizing services. Yet most DV advocates do not earn a living wage. Further, staff of DV agencies were not included in any prior budgetary initiatives to raise compensation for human service workers. DV advocates also aren’t included in the FY’24 COLA proposal, which includes COFS-licensed residential programs and providers of supportive services but not those providing domestic violence services.1 This has had a disastrous impact on the ability of DV agencies to retain and recruit employees. Thousands of jobs remain vacant as staff have left for higher paying and less traumatizing employment, jeopardizing the availability of services.
Q: What prior budgetary initiatives are you referring to?
A: Last year’s budget included $7.7 billion over the next four years to increase minimum wage for home care workers by $3/hour; $500 million for a 5.4% COLA for human service workers; and $1.2 billion for bonuses for healthcare and mental health workers. DV advocates were not included in any of these provisions.
2. Double Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) set aside for non-residential DV services to $6 million to meet high demand and adjust for inflation
DV survivors’ requests for non-residential supportive services increase every year. On just one day in 2022, 3,500 adult and child victims requested these services – 38% of all requests received on that day and 1,000 more than the year prior.2 The Executive Budget decreases this set aside from $3.2 million to $3 million, the same level as when it was first appropriated more than 20 years ago. When adjusted for inflation, this $3 million appropriation would have to be $5 million today to provide the same level of support and services for New York’s victims.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, as of 2020, “New York State has accumulated $897 million in unspent TANF block grant funds, equal to 37% of its block grant.”3 Increasing New York’s TANF set-aside for non-residential DV services by $3 million represents 0.67% of these unspent funds.
Q: If the inflation-adjusted amount is $5 million, why are you asking for $6 million?
A: New York relies almost exclusively on federal funding to support domestic violence services. These funds have either been cut or stagnant for several years and have not been sufficient to address current demand. As you may know, New York has the highest demand for domestic violence services in the country. During the pandemic, that demand has grown and continues to remain elevated. We are asking the Legislature to set aside $6 million in recognition of this increased demand for services and to adjust for inflation.
3. Carry forward $14.4 million transfer to OVS for crime victim services4 and earmark additional $11.7 million for legacy crime victim service providers that received cuts under new contracts
Domestic violence service providers rely on a myriad of federal funding streams to support life-changing services for victims of abuse and crime. VOCA is the largest of these funding sources, enabling hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to access services including shelter, housing, legal assistance, counseling and more. Without VOCA funds, many victim service programs would cease to exist, leaving victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, child abuse and child sexual abuse with nowhere to turn.
New York’s federal VOCA grant has declined $115.7 million from 2018 to 2022. While deposits into the federal Crime Victims Fund, which fuels state VOCA grants, are slowly increasing as a result of the 2022 VOCA Fix legislation, the Fund’s restoration has been taking longer than anticipated.
To stave off cuts to New York’s victim service providers, last year's budget included the first installment of a $14.4 million annual transfer from general funds to the state Office of Victim Services (OVS), which administers VOCA funding in the state. Regardless of the funding shift, when awards were issued last summer, OVS cut $11.7 million of funding for nearly 90 providers of DV, sexual assault, legal, and child advocacy services. Over the three-year term of the contracts, this amounts to $35.1 million of cuts – a move that is dramatically destabilizing New York’s crime victim service network. Without immediate intervention, the sustainability of victim services is in jeopardy, and services will not be available to all who need them.
We urge the Legislature to increase the proposed $14.4 million transfer to OVS to $26.1 million in order to supplement the VOCA awards to legacy victim service providers who received less funding in 2022-2025 than under prior contracts.
Q: Why did last year’s transfer include only $14.4 million if that wasn’t enough funding to stop cuts to victim service providers?
A: We understand that the $14.4 million estimate was provided to the Governor’s Office by OVS. We don’t know what this estimate was based upon.
Q: Why isn’t the VOCA fix legislation taking longer than anticipated to restore the Crime Victims Fund?
A: VOCA grants are not taxpayer-funded. They are paid out of the Crime Victims Fund, which comprises federal criminal monetary penalties. The VOCA fix legislation expanded the types of funding that can be diverted to the Crime Victims Fund. Now, non-prosecution and deferred-prosecution agreements can be included as well. However, for deposits to meaningfully increase, there needs to be more prosecutions of federal white-collar crimes. And while we have seen an increase in these types of prosecutions under the current administration, it isn’t yet enough to restore the Fund to where it has been in the past.
4. Move away from competitive grants for DV funding by adding organizational viability language for all state-administered federal grants used to support DV services.
With the increasing demand for DV services, New York State should be continuously investing in OCFS-licensed DV agencies to provide critical services for DV survivors and their families. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in New York. Instead, most funding for DV services in New York is awarded via competitive procurement, a process that causes significant upheaval and instability among this network of critical service providers. Every few years, DV service providers are forced to hire or fire staff, causing ripples throughout the survivor community. A long-standing, experienced and regulatory-compliant program might be funded to assist survivors on one day, and then not the next, leaving survivors without access to critical services.
To ensure the continuity, accessibility and sustainability of DV services, core funding to domestic violence service providers should not be made through a competitive grant process. Instead, the State should include “organizational viability” language in the State’s budget for domestic violence services, such as “To ensure organizational viability, agency administration may be supported subject to review and approval of the commissioners of state agencies administering funding for domestic violence services. Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, commissioners of such state agencies shall be authorized to continue contracts with community-based, nonprofit organizations providing residential or non-residential domestic violence services, without any additional requirements that such contracts be subject to competitive bidding or a request for proposals process.”
Q: Why shouldn’t funding for DV services be distributed via competitive procurements? That’s how New York distributes funding across many different sectors, such as economic development.
A: Competitive procurements make sense for certain sectors, but not for human services. DV service providers receive grants from several different agencies – OCFS, OTDA, OVS, DCJS and OPDV. Contracts on these grants are awarded at different times, with different contract durations and terms, including auditing and reporting requirements. When one state agency awards funding, it causes a shift of funding from some programs to other programs – an eventuality that causes significant upheaval and disruption to the overall network. Rather than forcing DV agencies to compete against one another, New York should be ensuring the long-term stability and sustainability of the programs it licenses to perform critical services on its behalf.
Q: Do you have an opinion about the Governor’s proposal to develop a DV and Gender-Based Model Policy for New York State and Its Counties?
A: Actually, OPDV’s enabling statute already requires it to develop a DV Model Policy for Counties, which was first developed in 1998 and revised in 2011-2012. It probably makes sense to update the policy again. However, the Governor is proposing to expand the policy to include all gender-based violence services and response. This is the purview of DOH, not OPDV, so we are looking carefully at this apparent expansion of OPDV’s responsibility. We also want to be sure that OCFS remains the agency responsible for supervising DV service providers, as well as promulgating rules and regulations for the operation of our programs.
Q: There is a lot of discussion about the Governor’s proposal to modify bail reform laws to permit judges’ discretion to assess an individual’s dangerousness. Do you think these changes are needed?
A: In 2019, with implementation of the first bail reform law, we supported the state’s goal of reducing the number of defendants held pre-trial because they couldn’t afford bail. However, since the new law went into effect, even with the tweaks made since then, we are seeing some troubling and tragic consequences. For example, near Buffalo, Keaira Bennefield was murdered by her ex-partner after he was released pre-trial following his arraignment on misdemeanor charges for viciously attacking her inside their home less than a week before the murder. While this may be an extreme case, we are hearing that other alleged abusers are being released pre-trial because the law isn’t clear on when judges can deny release on recognizance to those who pose a threat to others or the conditions them may set upon the defendant’s release.
More training is definitely needed for law enforcement to understand the options when responding to a DV incident, and for judges to understand when they can detain DV offenders or set conditions for their release. Above all, though, we are focused on the needs of DV survivors and ensuring they have access to support services as soon as possible after an incident occurs and an arrest is made, regardless of whether the offender is taken into physical custody or not. We look forward to working with the Legislature to discuss these issues and identify potential solutions.
Health and Mental Health Budget Bill S4007/A3007, Part DD.
 National Network to End Domestic Violence (2022). 17th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Report. Washington, DC.
 Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, ‘State Fact Sheets: How States Spend Funds Under the TANF Block Grant’, https://www.cbpp.org/sites/default/files/atoms/files/tanf_spending_ny.pdf, (accessed February 2, 2023).
 PPGG Budget Bill S4005/A3005, Part CC, Page 116, Lines 8-9.