While the shutdown of many federal government operations has stymied funding for crisis centers across the country that help victims of family violence and sexual assault, Texas agencies have been able to rely on other funds to operate, according to several state organizations.
In Central Texas, some centers also reported that they are not at risk of reducing services and, at least for now, have a cash cushion to weather the delay in reimbursements the federal government normally provides.
However, some services around the state could be in danger depending on how long the federal impasse lasts, said Aaron Setliff, policy director for the Texas Council on Family Violence.
“The failure to address the debt ceiling and any resulting negative economic ramification will strike programs in the same manner that the last recession did, and at a time when many programs have not fully recovered from the previous downturn,” he said.
Programs that receive direct funding from the federal government may be unable to continue with some projects, he said.
Executives for Travis County’s SafePlace and other Central Texas organizations told the American-Statesman last week that they aren’t anticipating such an outcome, but, they said, the situation is unsettling.
In an email sent to SafePlace board members after the partial shutdown began Oct. 1, executive director Julia Spann said that if the federal offices that distribute grants remain closed for longer than a few days, the group could be forced to dip into its cash reserves.
“We most likely have a funding cushion of about one month,” she said, adding that SafePlace’s federal funders, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have all said that the grants will be paid out. “We are assuming and hoping that this issue affects nothing more than our temporary cash flow.”
About 30 percent of the Travis County organization’s funding comes from 13 federal grants totaling $2.6 million, she said. Like many such centers across Texas, SafePlace gets some of that money by seeking reimbursement directly from federal agencies such as the CDC.
Other federal grants are paid out by the state, which then seeks reimbursement from the U.S. Department of Justice. Josh Havens, a spokesman for the governor’s office, said that Texas has continued to distribute money to local agencies and expects to be able to do so through the month. Since Oct. 5, the criminal justice division of the governor’s office has paid out approximately $700,000, he said.
“Everybody’s pretty nervous about it, but we are a crisis center so we’re used to dealing with one crisis or another,” said Marla Johnson, director of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center, said the agency has scrambled to complete the necessary paperwork to receive reimbursements so that its primed to get the money as soon as possible. About a third of its annual $1.5 million budget is federal funding, with half of that coming directly from the federal government, she said.
But over the past several years, the Women’s Center has tried to diversify its funding, Johnson said, working more with local donors and foundations so that it’s not so dependent on state and federal funds.
“Government funding is just unstable right now, and we have a lot of growth in the area,” she said. “We have a lot of people who are struggling. Who need help.”
Patty Conner, chief executive officer at Hope Alliance, said the Williamson County crisis center has been holding its breath that the shutdown doesn’t last too long — $25,000 of its $116,000 monthly budget comes from the feds. But she said she’s also concerned that victims of violence would hesitate to reach out because of it.
“Let victims and families know that we are here,” she said. “We’re open, and to not let the shutdown, or any story they read or hear, make them hesitate to reach out.”