By Claire Stremple
Alaska Beacon 

State domestic violence services running short of federal funding

 

December 20, 2023



A major source of funding for Alaska’s domestic violence response has decreased significantly the past five years, leaving a multimillion-dollar hole in the budget for services.

That reduction, paired with the end of federal pandemic relief money and high rates of inflation, has domestic violence advocates scrambling to adequately fund the groups that keep one of the state’s most vulnerable populations safe.

Alaska’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, the group that manages state and federal funding for domestic violence programs and distributes them to communities, has plugged the hole with “gap funding” from state and federal sources, said former council Director Diane Casto.

She had been using COVID relief dollars to stabilize the budget, she said, but the council will have spent all that money by the end of this year.

“This is no longer just a gap. It’s a reality,” she said. “We either need to have more money for the ongoing years to have stable funding, or we’re going to need to decrease the amount of money we put out on the street.”

The problem has been years in the making.

In fiscal year 2018, the state received nearly $8 million in federal VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) funds. In fiscal year 2021, it got less than $3 million.

That $5 million difference is a significant slice of the council’s financial pie. Last year, the council’s budget was nearly $25 million — of which more than 80% went out as grants to local providers.

Casto said the loss is exacerbated by inflation. While she is scrambling to keep funding stable, the costs of goods and services, especially in remote parts of the state, are going up.

“Even though we say — and it sounds really good: ‘They have steady funding, they’re getting the same amount they got last year’ — what that means is they’re getting cut every year, because the buying power for what they received in general fund dollars in 2017 is considerably less,” she said.

By her math, Casto has lost nearly a quarter of the buying power of her 2017 dollars. That means the council needs $2.6 million just to inflation proof the money that comes from the state’s general fund this next year.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com. This article was produced as a project for the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism’s 2023 Domestic Violence Impact Fund.

 

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