Governor Paterson's Cuts Hurt Domestic Violence Victims, Don't Save Money: Advocates

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In a perhaps politically ill-timed decision, Governor Paterson's Executive Budget Summary for the coming year calls for $3 million to be cut from domestic violence programs, according to a coalition of anti-violence service providers.

Of the $3 million, $1.25 million will adversely affect the city, says the New York City Coalition of Non-Residential Domestic Violence Service Providers. The coalition, made up of 13 groups, fears the funding cuts will effectively end all domestic violence intervention within many specific communities.

Sharon Stapel, executive director of the Anti-Violence Project -- the only program in the state that deals specifically with violence in the LGBT communities -- noted that the budget came out just days before the governor's own troubles related to a domestic violence dispute came to light.

Prior to that, she says, the governor "had a pretty good record" on domestic violence issues. Stapel was "shocked" when the news broke that he may have called Sherr-una Booker while State Police were allegedly pressuring her to drop charges against Paterson Aide David Johnson.

The funding cuts will affect services other than domestic violence shelters, says Stapel. But she maintains that the services AVP and other groups offer -- like prevention, hotlines and counseling -- actually help the state save money. Every time a family goes into the shelter system, it costs the state $27,000 a year. Stapel says if the state could only keep 111 families out of shelters by such preventative measures, it would make up the $3 million.

Stapel says her organization will have to let go of two of its six counselor advocates under this budget. In a press release, the coalition warns that certain immigrant communities could be cut off entirely in doing outreach with victims of trafficking and domestic violence.

"Without our counselor who speaks Lao and Thai, those two distinct communities have no organization where they can receive services in their languages," says the New York Asian Women's Center.

A spokeswoman for the state budget office says that the $3 million had been coming from a federal block grant, whose core mission is public assistance benefits. With that mission now overwhelmed by the recession, she said, the funding had to be cut.

"The state is facing a nine billion dollar deficit, and there are difficult decisions across the board," said the spokeswoman. "This is a budget of necessity, not of choice, and reflects those hard realities."

At a town hall meeting earlier this week, Paterson singled out the issue of domestic violence himself, saying the budget steps he wants to take will keep New York from ending up like California, who has had to close domestic violence centers.

In the same conference Paterson also said, "Off the top of my head, I don't think the proposed budget is going to help anything."


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