Between talk of overhauling the tax code and jumpstarting job creation, President Obama used his State of the Union address Tuesday (February 12) to also support a major source of funding for state and local public safety agencies — the Violence Against Women Act.
The program, originally passed in 1994 to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and dating violence, awards grants to courts, prosecutors, law enforcement agencies and victims' advocates. States receive both formula grants and discretionary grants for programs ranging for transitional housing to sensitivity training for law enforcement officers.
Part of the Justice Department, the Office on Violence Against Women has awarded more than $4 billion to state and local programs.
Obama praised the Senate for reauthorizing the bill and asked the House to do the same. The bill actually expired in 2011 and while the money has kept flowing to states through a continuing resolution, a reauthorization from Congress would alleviate uncertainty in the states, says Dorene Whitworth, executive director of the Association of VAWA Administrators.
Currently, the discrepancy separating the Senate bill from House proposals is a Senate provision that would allow nontribal members to be prosecuted by a tribal court for sexual assault or similar crimes on tribal lands. House Republicans have objected to allowing tribal courts jurisdiction over nontribal members.
In 2012, states received more than $400 million in these grants from the federal government. California received the largest award at just over $38 million. Vermont received the least at just over $800,000.
Each state is awarded a minimum of $600,000 in formula grants, which are based on population, and then individual agencies may apply for additional grants to support specific programs, such as preventing sexual violence on college campuses, encouraging the enforcement of court orders of protection to help stalking victims or preventing violence against elderly women.