With domestic violence on the rise across the state amid the COVID-19 crisis, two Central Coast lawmakers are calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to make more money available to the nonprofits that are working directly with the victims of violent households.
A bipartisan group of eight state assembly members—including Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo) and Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara)—co-signed a letter
on April 14 that asks Newsom to allocate $10 million in emergency grants to assist shelters statewide.
“Staying at home is not safe for everyone, particularly for victims of domestic violence sheltering in place with the person who is harming them,” the lawmakers’ letter reads. “This funding would be used to fulfill the ongoing needs of domestic violence service centers that have been increased by the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The letter claims that many areas of California have experienced a spike in domestic violence, like San Francisco and Fresno, where calls to law enforcement have nearly doubled in recent weeks.
But service providers are stretched thin on resources, as state funding for domestic violence nonprofits has declined after it got a boost in 2018-19 in response to the #MeToo movement.
“With the explosion of the #MeToo movement, there was an explosion around need,” explained Jane Pomeroy, executive director of RISE SLO
, which serves domestic and sexual violence victims in SLO County. “In 2019, we got that funding and then this year, it was all taken away. … This additional funding, if nothing else, could help maintain status quo.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF RISE SLO
MEETING A NEED Many California domestic violence nonprofits are seeing a surge in calls for service amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Pomeroy said that calls for service at RISE’s two shelters have not gone up with COVID-19, but she said that’s likely because victims have had less opportunity to call the crisis line in light of the stay-at-home order.
“People are being forced to stay at home with their abusers and have lost the chance to call,” she said. “Because we know that violence is increasing across the country and law enforcement agencies are seeing an increase in calls, my guess is the violence is escalating and that people are bypassing our crisis line and have gone straight to law enforcement because it’s reached that emergency level.”
Whenever the stay-at-home order is lifted, Pomeroy said she expects RISE will see a significant surge in calls for service and a need for more resources.
Cunningham, who represents SLO and northern Santa Barbara counties, told New Times
that his aim is to get Newsom to set aside $10 million from the $1 billion that the Legislature approved to fight COVID-19.
“It’s precisely the type of expenditure I thought I was voting for,” Cunningham said. “All of the nonprofits that do the lion’s share of the work, their budgets are all hit. … I think this is a good opportunity to meet a moment that’s critically important for people in our community.”
On the Central Coast in particular, Cunningham said, domestic violence organizations rely heavily on state funding versus local funding.
“The larger counties have massive county budgets to fund these shelters. Rural counties or midsize counties like ours, these state funds are critically important,” he said.
The eight lawmakers haven’t received a response to the letter from the governor’s office, Cunningham said. He noted that the spending decision on COVID-19 funding is ultimately Newsom’s. “The only way we can influence its use is by writing letters like this,” he said.