Last March, after the stay-at-home order went into effect, domestic violence hotline calls to the Cocoon spiked by 40%. Since then, hotline calls have increased by 15% every month.
This past year, we served more domestic violence survivors than ever, including a record number of children.
But in these critical times, we at the Cocoon must walk with insecure footing, trimming our budgets and depending on the generosity of donors, due to a nearly 39% cut to my most important funding source – the Victims of Crime Act grant. Grants to Ohio domestic violence programs were cut by $7.7 million in October.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office has warned another VOCA cut of up to 34% is expected this year. The Cocoon is working to weather the storm, but with further cuts coming, we will be faced with reduced hotline responsiveness and major cuts to programs and services.
It was a hopeful sign when in 2019 Ohio became one of 33 states that provide support for their programs. The $1 million budget annual allocation provided grants of $17,800 to 47 residential programs that year and $12,000 grants to 69 programs in 2020.
The Cocoon greatly appreciated the funding, which helped offset our more than $200,000 VOCA cut. But it is not enough support for a program that last year helped nearly 750 survivors go to court, find housing and take steps to rebuild their lives.
Our programs need a stable funding source. Next year, we need a $5 million annual line item, which would bring Ohio’s support for DV programs closer in line with other states. Among the 33 states that provide state domestic violence service support, Ohio’s support is lowest on a per capita basis. Among surrounding states, Ohio spends 9 cents per capita, compared to $1.40 in West Virginia and $1.50 in Kentucky.
Ohio’s domestic violence programs struggle to respond to a spike in families seeking help. Half the state’s programs reported an increased number of survivors seeking shelter, hotline calls or other requests for services in 2020 compared to 2019.
Ohio’s elected and executive branch officials must be prepared to fully support domestic violence programs by supporting an increase in the domestic violence survivor services line item from $2 million to $10 million. Ohio’s domestic violence programs and communities are relying on it.
Mull is Executive Director of the Cocoon.