SACRAMENTO, Ca. — California state Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a Democrat who serves South Central Los Angeles, will introduce a budget ask letter Feb. 28, proposing that $50 million be added to the state’s FY 2023-24 budget to support domestic violence prevention programs.
In an email to Ethnic Media Services, Jones-Sawyer said he is submitting the request to “help 35 California organizations prevent and assist those affected by acts of domestic violence.”
“Lives that have forever been changed need the resources to start a new transformative life. These funds will help with that process,” said Jones-Sawyer, who chairs the Public Safety Committee through which a portion of the budget request will be reviewed before it is sent on to the full Legislature for approval. The request must head to Governor Gavin Newsom’s office by May 15. Newsom must then decide whether to include the funding, and then send his revised budget back to the state Legislature for approval. The governor must sign off on the final state budget by June 30.
Newsom Cuts Funding
In his initial budget released Jan 10, Newsom did not include funds for domestic violence prevention. Funding for prevention services has been an annual ask: in 2019, the state allocated $5 million; in 2020, $10 million, and in 2021, $15 million, which supported 100 DV prevention organizations and programs with a one-time grant of $150,000.
Last year, however, the governor allocated no money for DV prevention programs and services, despite a $97 billion budget surplus. DV prevention organizations say the tenuous, year-by-year annual funding does not allow them to build sustainable programs.
Jones-Sawyer’s budget request lays out how the proposed $50 million would be used. $20 million would be allocated in one-time grants of $150,000 to 135 organizations working on domestic violence prevention. The funds would be allocated through the California Office of Emergency Services. $22 million would be allocated to support innovative interventions and culturally rooted approaches to ending domestic and sexual violence. This portion of the funding would focus on pilot programs engaging men, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA communities and culturally-rooted programs. The funding, which would be administered by the California Department of Social Services, would support pilot programs and expand capacity of existing programs.
DV Shelters, Rape Crisis Centers
The request also asks for removal of the criminal fees associated with domestic violence convictions and replaces lost revenue with a $3 million per year grant to domestic violence shelters, $2 million per year to rape crisis centers, and $1 million per year for the California Department of Public Health’s Domestic Violence Training and Education Fund. The remaining $2 million would be used to establish a senior advisor on violence prevention, who could inform multiple state agencies.
The budget request is supported by several domestic violence prevention organizations including the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence, the Culturally Responsive Domestic Violence Network, the Alliance for Men and Boys of Color, and Valor US.
Abigail Alvarez, a policy consultant with the Culturally Responsive Domestic Violence Network, told Ethnic Media Services that Newsom has not publicly remarked on whether he will support the budget request. As an issue area, members of the state Legislature have been really responsive, she said.
But California is facing an estimated $22.5 billion budget deficit; several analysts have said the shortfall is much higher. “It’s going to be a tough year to get anything through,” predicted Alvarez. “Other emergencies— floods, wildfires — get a lot of attention. We believe domestic violence is also an emergency.”
DV prevention organizations are mobilizing to garner support from members of the state Legislature. Alvarez said many are providing testimony to “humanize the issue.”
Orange Day of Action
At a Feb. 7 “Orange Day of Action,” held on the steps of the state Capitol here, Jones-Sawyer told the crowd that he had grown up in a violent environment. I realized at some point that I was behaving in the same way.”
California state Assembly members Blanca Rubio, D-San Gabriel Valley, and Robert Rivas, who will serve as Assembly Speaker beginning June 30, also spoke at the rally. The morning event focused on teen dating violence: several youth advocacy groups also spoke about the need to expand prevention services.
“We need to listen to those young voices behind me,” said Rivas, who has a seven-year-old daughter. “We need to teach our youth how to recognize violent relationships and to seek out services. Our young people cannot be left behind.”
Domestic Violence Survivor
Rubio said she is the sister of a domestic violence survivor and noted that in her youth, domestic violence was not spoken about at home or in the classroom. “We were not equipped to recognize abuse.”
The former teacher is the mother of two teens. “I don’t have the tools to respond to my children if they are experiencing dating violence. I would struggle with what to say. We need tools for parents and for the health and safety of our children.”
Several teens who spoke at the rally also spoke at an Ethnic Media Services briefing Feb. 24.