Today, President Trump announced he would sign a short-term agreement to fund the government until Feb. 15. It is his hope that an agreement would be negotiated between now and then to fund his border wall proposal. If his requests are not met, he has threatened to shut the government back down again at that point or use other emergency measures, meaning the potential of an emergency declaration. In the meantime, it is expected that Congress will pass this short-term extension today, and that it will be signed by the president by tonight. This measure would create a conference committee on homeland security funding, giving them a three-week period to negotiate. This shutdown has dragged on, greatly surpassing the record as the longest in U.S. history, and the Alliance has worked to lift up stories about the true impact of the shutdown on communities, your organizations, and children and families. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, particularly its impact on the federal programs that impact your organization, clients, and stakeholders.
Spotlight on Alliance Member: Family Service Society in Indiana
While the government shutdown may be ending temporarily today, there are still impacts, such as delayed payments and reimbursements that will be a continued challenge for members. These challenges are consistent with our National Imperative report. Though the shutdown is over temporarily, uncertainty remains high and there is still much work to be done.
Family Service Society, Inc. is a small, community-based organization in Marion, Indiana. They serve 14 rural counties in Indiana, though they have clients from 24 counties. This year they are celebrating 100 years of serving children and families. FSSI provides outpatient mental health services, domestic violence prevention and intervention services, school-based services, and the Healthy Family program for mothers and children age 0-3. In 2018 their shelter served 209 individuals and provided 2,627 safe bed nights.
Like many Alliance members, while they do not have any direct federal grants, they are funded by state grants that pass federal funding through the state. Their domestic violence services have been most affected during the shutdown. Most of the programs they rely on, like STOP Violence Against Women formula grants (funded through the Violence Against Women Act) or VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) work on a cost reimbursement basis - they provide services in advance and claim dollars later. They are currently owed funds under STOP dated back to July, and VOCA, Family Violence Prevention and Services, Social Services Block Grant funds dating back to October.
They can continue to provide shelter and 24-hour care to their domestic violence victims, but their line of credit balance continues to grow, and delays on their reimbursement will likely get longer as the state runs out of federal funding. At some point soon, they will no longer be able to keep the doors open as there are no reserve funds to support the shelter operations without jeopardizing other programs and services. As their line of credit grows, their bank is starting to question their ability to pay down the line and they are receiving mounting pressure.
According to President and CEO Lisa Dominisse: “The challenge for me, as a leader, is how do I protect the vulnerable and voiceless while also protecting our agency’s ability to serve the many – we touch between 13,000 and 14,000 lives annually through all of our programs combined. How do I turn away a victim and their children who have nowhere else to turn? And thinking beyond where we will place victims and their children – if we furlough our employees, what guarantees do we have that they will come back to the shelter to work once the shutdown is over? The inability to hire or rehire qualified staff after a furlough could seriously inhibit our ability to reopen the shelter and place even more victims in dangerous situations.”
For more on the government shutdown, committee assignments, and more check out this week's Federal Update.