Sexual assault, abuse agencies impacted by government shutdown

New Orleans Family Justice Center dealing with government shutdown impact.
New Orleans Family Justice Center dealing with government shutdown impact.
Updated: Jan. 17, 2019 at 3:29 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Groups that deal with sexual assault and abuse say they’re feeling the toll of the government shutdown.

“We don’t want to shut our doors. This is life and death situations for survivors,” said Mary Claire Landry, executive director for New Orleans Family Justice Center.

The partial government shutdown is in its fourth week, and it makes Landry extremely nervous.

“This is not just going to impact the New Orleans Family Justice Center, eventually this is going to affect every domestic violence and sexual assault program across the country if these funds are not made available,” Landry said.

The advocacy group gets 60 percent of its $2.8 million annual budget through contracts from the Department of Justice and Department of Housing and Urban Development. Landry said the reimbursement she expected to get Friday won’t come.

“After Friday, you know we’re going to continue to use whatever funding we have available to us to keep our doors open for as long as possible,” Landry said.

In a measure to save costs, Landry is halting a rental assistance program for victims.

“We’ve had to scale that back significantly and really just stop the program,” Landry said. “Which means there are survivors that aren’t going to be able to leave a violent situation because they don’t have any place to go.”

Mariah Wineski, executive director for the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, oversees 15 agencies. She worries about the same thing.

“Domestic violence programs across the state have done their best to prepare for this shutdown. As of now, all programs are operating, and people experiencing violence can still receive help,” Wineski wrote in a statement to FOX 8. "However, the longer the shutdown goes on the more precarious our position becomes. These agencies are providing lifesaving services without access to reimbursement for services rendered. It puts them in an untenable position. Their cash reserves can only last so long. If the shutdown is not resolved soon, there will be catastrophic effects on our state’s safety net for victims of domestic violence.”

“It just doesn’t seem like there’s a solution that’s coming anytime soon,” Landry said, saying they are taking out another line of credit to pay staff. "Our goal right now is to pay utilities and to pay the payroll. That’s our two primary objectives right now.”

She told her landlord that the agency can’t pay for rent for January or February. Landry said she will continue to work without pay, but she doesn’t want her staff to have to deal with the burden.

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