PUBLIC POLICY & LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY
NYSCADV has been instrumental in the passage, implementation and enforcement of comprehensive legislation at the State and Federal level that meaningfully improves the lives of domestic violence survivors and their families in New York State. Each year, NYSCADV develops a legislative platform that identifies its broad areas of focus. In 2021, NYSCADV is focused on issues pertaining to funding for domestic violence programs and services, expanding housing options for domestic violence survivors, improvements to New York’s criminal and family court systems, and ensuring equity for all domestic violence survivors.
In addition, NYSCADV consults with a diverse group of domestic violence service providers, advocates, survivors and stakeholders to develop a proactive policy agenda that addresses a wide range of domestic violence issues. NYSCADV holds an annual Budget Advocacy Day in February and a Legislative Day of Action in May to educate legislators and regulators on pressing issues and to ensure the voices of domestic violence survivors are heard. Check out our 2020 legislative summary below, which includes domestic violence-related legislation that was signed into law, passed both chambers, or passed either the Assembly or Senate last year.
NYSCADV also is working to increase the amount of funding available for DV survivors and their families, and the local DV service providers who support them. Available funding for New York’s DV services has either decreased or remained flat for many years preceding the COVID-19 Pandemic, drastically impacting the ability of DV service providers to keep up with demand for DV services. For example, the New York State Budget set aside of federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds remains at $3 million, the same level it was 20 years ago when it was first proposed. Similarly, according to the NYS Office of Victim Services, New York’s Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance funding decreased from 28% from 2018-2019, and was forecasted to decrease another 26% from 2019 to 2020.
In 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic has made these financial challenges even more acute. Governor Cuomo released data demonstrating a “dangerous uptick of domestic violence incidents” in New York since March. Yet funding for domestic violence services during the Pandemic is declining because New York’s system of funding DV services is based on the number of DV survivors residing in emergency shelters each night. DV agencies are not reimbursed if DV survivors avoid emergency shelter, as they are doing during the Pandemic. And DV agencies are not reimbursed if shelter beds are intentionally kept open to comply with New York’s social distancing, quarantine and/or isolation requirements. This means that many DV agencies are providing more services to more DV survivors with less funding available. This cannot be sustainable for long.
It is also critical for New York State to allocate funding for primary prevention programs that address the root causes and conditions that make domestic violence possible. These strategies include working with children and adults to set expectations for healthy communication; working with schools, caregivers, workplaces and other community settings to change behaviors; saturating communities with healthy relationship messaging and promoting safe and responsible bystander behaviors; and, promoting policies and cultivating leaders who set expectations for healthy relationships and communities.
Regarding federal funding for DV services, NYSCADV joins with other state coalitions and the National Network to End Domestic Violence to advocate for federal funding proposals, such as the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Victims of Crime Act and the Violence Against Women Act, to ensure they address the needs of domestic violence victims.