U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a survivor of domestic violence and sexual assault, is joining her Democratic and Republican colleagues in calling for additional support for survivors and victims of sexual assault and domestic violence to be included in future COVID-19 relief legislation.
In a letter to Republican and Democratic Senate leaders, Ernst and her bipartisan colleagues write: “At a time when people who experience domestic violence are at increased risk, and requests for sexual assault and domestic violence-related services have sharply increased, additional funding for these programs is critical.”
Ernst and her fellow lawmakers go on to write: “The United States must demonstrate leadership in this effort by continuing to provide the additional resources needed to support at-risk families and children… Domestic violence service providers across the country are facing funding and staffing challenges related to the pandemic and have seen an increased need for services including crisis intervention, shelter and transitional housing, and legal assistance. Rape crisis centers need funding to shift their services from in-person to virtual and meet the emergency needs of survivors. This strain on resources is expected to disproportionally impact traditionally underserved populations such as black and Latino communities as well as people who live in rural areas.”
“We commend Senator Ernst for signing onto this important bipartisan letter to address the immediate needs of survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Beth Barnhill, Executive Director for the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Senator Ernst has spent considerable time and energy having conversations, asking questions, and getting to know Iowa’s victim service programs. We so appreciate the commitment the senator has made to better understand how survivors are coping with the chaos of these unprecedented times, and how we can work together to come up with concrete solutions to meet the diverse needs of survivors and the programs that serve them.”
Ernst joined Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and 38 of her Democratic and Republican colleagues to call for additional funding for these critical programs, including: the Sexual Assault Service Program; the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) STOP Grants with a priority on flexible funding for victim service providers; grants outreach and services to underserved populations; and, the VAWA Transitional Housing Assistance Grants, among other things.
The letter is supported by the following groups: Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center; Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence; Break the Cycle; California Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Casa de Esperanza: National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities; Futures Without Violence; Jewish Women International; Legal Momentum; National Alliance to End Sexual Violence; National Coalition Against Domestic Violence; National Council of Jewish Women; National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges; National Domestic Violence Hotline; National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center; National Network to End Domestic Violence; National Organization of Sisters of Color Ending Sexual Assault; National Resource Center on Domestic Violence; StrongHearts Native Helpline; Tahirih Justice Center; Ujima, Inc.: The National Center on Violence Against Women in the Black Community; and YWCA USA.
This letter follows Ernst’s call for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure domestic violence survivors receive their direct COVID-19 relief payments regardless of their place of residence. Last week, Senator Ernst joined a teleconference video call with members of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CASA) to discuss these issues and the ways she’s working to ensure survivors are getting the support they need during COVID-19.
In the most recent bipartisan relief package passed by Congress, Ernst supported additional funding for domestic violence shelters and domestic violence coalitions – such as the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence – and nearly $2 million to bolster the National Domestic Violence Hotline.