OLYMPIA, Wash. — This week nonprofit groups that serve victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in Washington are breathing a sigh of relief after funding was approved in the state budget to help supplement federal cuts.
The groups found out in December that they would be facing a 23% cut in federal funding that goes into effect July 1, which is why they called on the state to help fill the gap.
“That is such a volatile funding source, it changes year to year,” said Emily Stone, the public policy director for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, referring to the federal funding. “It looks drastically different from year to year. So again, it's really hard for programs to plan."
After finding out there would be less federal funding, they got the news that additional funding for these resources was not included in Governor Jay Inslee’s budget for 2023-2025.
“It was scary, I was disappointed, I was frustrated,” said Emily Stone.
Emily said this lack of funding concerned her because she sees firsthand how nonprofits she works with are already struggling to keep up with inflationary costs and increased demand for services.
“There were threats of programs having to close their doors and that was absolutely going to be the case without any additional funding,” said Emily Stone.
Multiple groups that support crime victims came together to request a total of $132 million in the state budget for the next two years. The budget ended up with $50.8 million being allocated for these services, which the groups are thankful for. Just more than $43 million of that funding is one-time funding to supplement the federal cuts.
“We're really grateful for that kind of short-term fix while we look at long-term solutions,” said Emily Stone.
Included in the $50.8 million, was an ongoing funding increase for domestic violence services. Emily said this was the first increase in 15 years. The ongoing funding increased from $6 million per year to $10 million per year.
Emily said sexual assault services did not see an increase in ongoing funding, but Mary Ellen Stone, the CEO of the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, said they are thankful for the one-time funding. Mary Ellen Stone said this funding will hopefully allow them to keep up with the increased demand for services they are seeing.
“We’re seeing greatly increased mental health needs for young people, we're seeing court backlogs,” said Mary Ellen Stone. “You know, resource line calls are very high, so the needs are out there.”
The legislature did decide to fund a work group to figure out the best ways the state can ensure resources and funding are available to help survivors of gender-based violence in the future.
“We can do a lot better than this,” said Mary Ellen Stone. “So, there's going to be a group setting up, presumably sometime late summer, early fall, to really start looking at what we should be doing so that we're not in this place year after year?"
Both groups hope to see funding for survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence be a priority in the future.
“We're incredibly grateful that there is some additional funding in the budget,” said Emily Stone. “We know that there's still more work to do, but we're so grateful for the legislature stepping up and investing in these critical services.”
The group formed to brainstorm ideas to support survivors of gender-based violence will make recommendations for the 2025 legislative session.
If you or someone you know has experienced sexual assault, free and confidential help and information is available seven days a week. Call King County Sexual Assault Resource Center's 24-hour Resource Line at 1.888.99.VOICE (1.888.998.6423).
For more resources on domestic violence, click here.