U.S. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL-13th) today joined a bipartisan group of House colleagues to introduce legislation that would keep shelter doors open to victims of domestic violence and their children. Joining Biggert were sponsor Gwen Moore (D-WI-4th) and cosponsors Aaron Schock (R-IL-18th) and Gregorio Sablan (D-MP-At Large). The bill, H.R. 4116, would reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), which provides local shelters with critical funding for emergency housing, crisis counseling, and support services.
"As financial and other pressures on struggling families rise, more and more victims of domestic violence are looking to local shelters for safety," said Rep. Biggert, former Co-Chair of the House Caucus on Women's Issues. "When these victims make the often difficult decision to flee from a life-threatening situation, they should be able to rest assured that a safe haven is available -- somewhere they and their children can escape the constant fear and violence. As demand rises and state resources are slashed in Springfield, our bill will help ensure that local shelters like the Crisis Center for South Suburbia in Tinley Park can keep their doors open to those in need."
Last authorized in 2003, the outdated FVPSA program expired at the end of 2008, but remains temporarily active through Congressional appropriations for fiscal year 2009.
"Victims of domestic violence should never be forced to go back to their abusers because they don't have access to an emergency shelter -- or because they are worried about their financial stability if they leave," said Rep. Moore. "Calls for help have skyrocketed over the past year as the economy has suffered, and we have a duty to help these victims and their kids find safety and rebuild their lives. This legislation provides the critical resources that make shelters and lifesaving services available to victims."
H.R. 4116 would increase the authorization level for local shelters and programs to $250 million (from $175 million), create new grants for underserved communities, and improve the National Domestic Violence Hotline though the use of text messaging and other technologies to better reach at-risk populations including youth victims of dating violence. The bill also would enable shelters to offer programs tailored for children exposed to domestic violence.
"We applaud Representative Biggert for supporting critical legislation to reauthorize FVPSA," said Vicki Smith, executive director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Domestic violence programs in Illinois are struggling to meet the increasing demand for services as the economic crisis sends more victims to their doors just as funding sources are decreasing. Advocates in Illinois are proud of Representative Biggert's continued leadership in ensuring a safety net for survivors of abuse."
"The National Network to End Domestic Violence applauds Representatives Moore, Schock, Biggert, and Sablan for their leadership on this life-saving legislation," said Brian Namey, spokesperson for the National Network to End Domestic Violence. "This bill -- the only federal funding dedicated to domestic violence shelters -- is an investment in saving lives. This legislation represents hope for millions of survivors and their children who seek safety from violent homes."