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Talking Points

Budget Advocacy Day

Talking Points and Q&A

These talking points are intended for use during meetings with legislators,
either virtually or in person.

Use it as a guide for your conversations. There is no need to memorize these points or cover all the issues described below. Feel free to focus on one or two items of most significance to your program. And we encourage you to modify the language as you see fit so your conversation becomes natural. Our goal is to deliver consistent, rather than identical, messaging to legislators.


General Background:

  • Thousands of domestic violence victims rely on the care we provide. We help DV victims safety plan. We find them housing, and access to medical or mental health treatment. We advocate on their behalf with state agencies and local government agencies. We help them re-establish their families in new communities, enroll their children in new schools, find jobs, even accompany them in court. Our work is critical and without our program, DV victims would have nowhere to turn.
  • The demand for DV services has increased as well. [Cite local information if available.] Requests for DV services in New York have increased 60% in the last five years. On just one day in 2023, more than 10,000 requests for DV services were received by NY’s DV programs. Worse, more than 1,000 of those requests could not be fulfilled. Although most requests are for emergency shelter, the demand for non-residential services (e.g., safety planning, general advocacy, financial assistance, medical and mental health care, and support groups) increased more than 20% from last year.
  • DV programs are experiencing significant challenges, making it nearly impossible to meet the rising demand for our services. Funding for DV services has been flat for years, with increasing administrative burdens and more requirements for the services we offer. Programs have had to lay off staff, cut programming and obtain interest-bearing loans or lines of credit just to have enough revenue to keep their doors open. In addition, our staff has been left out of the cost-of-living salary adjustments available to other human services workers. This inequity has resulted in hundreds of employees transitioning from our programs. Many vacancies remain, further stressing our over-worked and tired workforce.
  • New York must fully fund DV services to ensure all DV survivors get the help they need when they need it.

I am asking the Legislature to:

1. Accept $134.4 million to cover the shortfall in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding

DV programs rely on many federal funding streams to provide 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 DV, sexual violence, child abuse and child sexual abuse with nowhere to turn.  

New York’s federal VOCA grant has declined $121.6 million from 2018 to 2023, losing 61% of its value. Prior state appropriations covered only 23% of this shortfall (or $29 million). The State Office of Victim Services (OVS) is warning victim services providers that without more funding, it will have to cut contracts with existing programs by as much as $19 million. This would be catastrophic for victims of DV.

The Legislature must carry forward the Governor’s earmarks to ensure the continuity and stability of victim services.

If asked: Where is this proposed funding in the Executive Budget?

A: This money is in the budget in three places. There are two separate line items in the Aid to Localities budget for OCFS – one for $100 million and the other for $20 million. In the Public Protection and General Revenues (PPGG) budget bill, there is a transfer of $14.4 million from general revenues to the State Office of Victim Services.

If asked: Why is the VOCA fix legislation taking longer than anticipated to restore VOCA grants?

A: The VOCA fix legislation expanded the types of funding that can be diverted to the Crime Victims Fund, which supports state VOCA grants. 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. 

2. Include DV advocates in this year’s COLA

DV advocates are essential, frontline workers whose work requires specialized skills and training. It is also a 24/7 job, requiring us to meet DV survivors where they are – at the police station, in court or the hospital – to provide critical, life-changing services.

It is unconscionable that DV advocates have never received a cost-of-living adjustment on the contracts we have with New York State. Most other human service workers who perform similar duties have received multiple COLAs. As a result, hundreds of staff have left DV agencies across the state for higher paying jobs. With the demand for DV services continuing to climb, we must stabilize the DV workforce to ensure DV survivors get the help they need.

A bill has been introduced (S7793A/A8437A) to include DV advocates and VOCA sub-grantees into this year’s COLA. I urge you to support the inclusion of this legislation into the budget.

If asked: OCFS believes DV advocates are getting a COLA through the per diem. Is that true?

A:  OCFS sets annual per diem rates for shelter. This is the amount of money DV programs receive when a DV survivor is in shelter for the night. This per diem, which does not cover the full cost of operating a shelter, has included a modest “growth adjustment factor” that OCFS permits DV programs to use for staff salaries. However, because the per diem doesn’t cover the full cost of operating a shelter, this growth adjustment factor is needed to cover shelter expenses. Even if it is used for employee salaries, it would only cover DV advocates in residential programs, not those in non-residential programs. Further, DV programs only receive the per diem when a bed is occupied in shelter, while staff must be paid every day they work.

3. Continue the Survivors Access Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Fund with another $5 million

Increasing a DV survivor’s economic security creates a path to safety. Last year, the final budget included $5 million for DV programs to provide direct financial assistance to DV survivors. We are anxiously awaiting execution of a contract to begin that work. In this year’s budget, the Governor proposed expanding the program with another $5 million, which will significantly expand the ability of DV advocates to meet the financial needs of those who are trying to stabilize their lives.

If asked: Do you support expanding eligibility for these grants to victims of sexual violence who are not currently eligible?

A: The New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault and others are advocating to increase the appropriation for the SAFE Fund to $10 million to give victims of sexual assault access to this financial assistance. We support an increase in this appropriation for that purpose. DOH, rather than OPDV, should administer any funding available for victims of sexual violence, as it is the state agency responsible for licensing rape crisis centers.


If asked: The Governor proposed to increase funding to prevent and prosecute DV by giving more funding to prosecutors, law enforcement and probation/parole (e.g., $30 million for Gun Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE); $5.8 million for DV Strategic Threat Alert Team (STAT); $3 million for Supervision Against Violent Engagement (SAVE)). Is that something you support?

A: We don’t know much about these programs and have asked the Governor’s staff to provide more information. They may be well-intentioned, but they don’t appear to align well with the current needs of DV survivors. For example, the first thing we need to do is ensure all survivors get the services they need. Last year, more than 1,000 victims on just one day didn’t get the services they were looking for. So we need more funding for our programs. They are also seeking more support groups, more mental health counseling, and transportation. Moreover, in family court, we need more supervised visitation programs, more legal services and more legal advocacy.