Desperate times call for desperate measures. Or at least that’s what Georgia legislators are using to defend their decision to completely eliminate state funding to battered women shelters. While that may sound extreme, I wouldn’t be surprised if other states soon started to follow suit.
Legislators in Georgia are prepared to eliminate all state money designated for domestic violence programs and instead replace the money with federal funds. Advocates are worried, and rightfully so, that this switch will severely limit the services domestic violence shelters can provide.
Governor Nathan Deal is attempting to use $4.4 million in federal welfare money- as allocated through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)- to fund domestic violence shelters. Though he has come under fire for this strategy, the budget has already passed in both the House and the Senate.
While the Governor may argue that using TANF money is a satisfactory solution, in reality it is an exclusionary policy that will prevent a large population from acquiring life-saving services. TANF restrictions prevent the use of the program’s money for services to single adults without children, a group that currently makes up an average of 31% of those who seek domestic violence services in the state. Many victims served by sexual assault centers may not qualify to benefit from TANF dollars based on their income and family status.
Further exacerbating the situation is that TANF money is not a guarantee. There’s a strong possibility that it may be decreased by the federal government, thus jeopardizing all services funded by the program. As the needs of domestic violence and sexual assault victims rise, now is not the time to displace women and children who often have nowhere else to go.
There’s no doubt that states across the union are experiencing massive budget shortfalls, but cutting the lifelines that many women depend on for peace and safety is not the solution.