NEW BRITAIN, CT —The federal government shutdown is impacting people besides federal workers going without paychecks.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy sought to draw attention Tuesday to struggling domestic violence shelters, like the Prudence Crandall Center in New Britain.
The Prudence Crandall Center is one of Connecticut’s domestic violence support organizations directly impacted by the ongoing shutdown. It receives approximately $45,000 monthly through U.S. Housing and Urban Development contracts to help cover essential costs for its supportive housing program.
It is the only center of its kind in the state, according to executive director Barbara Damon, that receives the monthly HUD stipend from the federal government — money it has not received since the start of the partial shutdown.
“The cost of providing 28 apartments and compassionate, specialized support services to these families, to keep them moving forward after a life of abuse, is significant,” Damon said.
The center does raise some of its funds from the community, but the amount of money that comes from the government is significant.
“We already raise 30 percent of our funding every year from our community to continue our work,” Damon added. “The loss of $45,000 monthly is not one we can sustain over an extended period of time.”
She said the impact will be felt beyond the housing program and could “threaten our ability to provide all of our services.”
Damon said the center has had to lean on its donations harder during the shutdown and may have to soon tap into reserve funds. But she said even doing those two things won’t be enough if the shutdown goes on for longer three months.
“Our largest cost is payroll,” Damon said of the 40 staffers who work at the center. “And we have rent, too.”
Karen Jarmoc, chief executive officer of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said there are 40,000 domestic violence victims in the state of Connecticut. She said system already operates at “123 percent capacity all the time.”
Eighty of those domestic violence survivors live at the Prudence Crandall Center. The center provides families with a “next step” after a shelter stay — a safe, affordable home from which they can work on their goals of self-sufficiency, independence, and a life free from abuse.
Agency staff help survivors with issues such as finding work, educational goals, budgeting, and custody and child support issues.
The U.S. Justice Department oversees a number of federal grants that support state and local domestic violence shelters. Two of those programs fall under laws known as the Violence Against Women Act, which administers federal grants to organizations that protect victims of domestic abuse and stalking, and the Victims of Crime Act, which provides federal support to state and local programs that house and assist victims of domestic violence.
Now that the standoff over a current spending bill has cut off Justice Department funds too, organizations that rely on those monies are in flux. Jarmoc said they are doing their best, but it’s not easy when the reimbursements from the federal government are no longer guaranteed.
Blumenthal and Murphy said that while they didn’t want to sell short the financial pain that federal workers are experiencing, their visit to the center was important to widen the focus on the impact of the stalemate.
“This shutdown is a multi-pronged attack on families in Connecticut,” Murphy said, adding that President Donald Trump is “using people at bargaining chips.”
Murphy said he thought it was ridiculous that the shutdown has gone on over a month “and we haven’t taken a single vote in the Senate” to try and reopen the government.
It’s been 32 days since Trump and Congressional Democrats have been able to reach a deal over Trump’s desire to spend $5.7 billion on a wall along the southern border.
“No president should be permitted to take Americans hostage over an applause line used in his campaign,” Blumenthal said, referring to Trump’s oft-repeated campaign promise that he would build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants.
Blumenthal said he finds it especially appalling that domestic violence victims are in the middle of the political fight.
“Remember the kind of courage and strength it takes for a woman to leave an abusive spouse or partner,” Blumenthal said. “They need to know they have some place to go.”
The Senate is expected Thursday to take two votes on competing proposals aimed at ending the ongoing government shutdown — one backed by Republicans and the other backed by Democrats. Both are likely to fail.