Programs to help thousands of sexual assault victims nationwide could be without funding by Friday if a federal government shutdown continues. The 28 Florida counseling and crisis intervention groups that receive grant money from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Crime Victims Fund (VOCA) will stop receiving those payments Friday, said Courtney Nomina of the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, Politico reports. If the shutdown continues, at least eight programs will cut staff in the next three weeks. A total of 188 salaries are paid through the grant, which is financed through criminal penalties. “In the wake of the #MeToo movement, programs are experiencing increased demands for services and are already stretched thin in terms of finances and staffing,” Nomina said. “A prolonged government shutdown means closed doors. It means survivors not being treated and assisted. It means turning our backs on victims.”
Florida received about $210.8 million from the program last year, according to the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators. The Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs says it has carryover funds to continue to process funding requests from grant recipients through January 18. Those requests are submitted to the Treasury Department for payment, and it is not known when Treasury will actually make payments. “What this means is that many State VOCA assistance programs may not be able to draw down federal VOCA funds to reimburse local victim service agencies, which may encounter serious cash flow problems,” the association says.