VAWA “bridge funds” bill released by Senate Health Committee

TRENTON – The Senate Health Committee released bill S2490, which would set aside no more than $1 million in so-called bridge funds for crisis groups receiving Violence Against Women Act grants.

The funds would go to the state Department of Law and Public Safety in Grants-in-Aid as a bridge to support Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grantees who may lose federal funds after June 1, 2013, due to Congressional inaction. The bridge funds would enable agencies receiving the grants to continue providing services and education.

The VAWA Bridge Fund Act states that “these grants would allow grantees to provide limited services until the United States Congress reauthorizes VAWA grant funding.”

Phyllis Adams of Women Aware, a Middlesex-County based group that helps domestic violence victims, supported the measure and described domestic violence as a social justice issue. She said that since 1994, VAWA funds have helped fund domestic violence response teams and legal advocacy programs.

“Help us save the lives of women,” Adams said.

However, Sen. Robert Singer (R-30) of Lakewood and Sen. Diane Allen (R-7) of Edgewater, were concerned about where the state is going to find the money from to provide the bridge funds.

 It was not specifically known.

“We can’t even meet our budget right now,” Allen said. “We don’t have a million dollars to put there.”

She added, “Unless I know where that money is coming from…it’s really an exercise in futility.”

Nonetheless, she and Singer voted yes. But the other two Republican senators, Sen. Dawn Addiego (R-8) of Evesham and Sen. Sam Thompson (R-11), of Old Bridge, abstained.

Thompson said he needs more information on what happens in case the program runs out of money

Andrea Spencer-Linzie of NJ CASA (Coalition Against Sexual Assault) said the bridge funds will help keep the crisis response intact

Spencer-Linzie said an estimated 38,000 women in New Jersey, 18 and older suffer sexual assault, each year.  If those under age 18 are include, the number is probably double that, she said.

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