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TRENTON – Acting to protect New Jersey programs supported by the federal Violence Against Women Act from losing all funding, Senate President Pro Tempore Nia Gill and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg have introduced legislation that would provide bridge funding until Congress reauthorizes VAWA. House Republicans refused to renew the landmark law during the 112 Congressional session, jeopardizing the $5.8 million the state and other entities receive in support of programs that protect women against sexual assault, domestic violence and intimidation.
Introduced on Monday, the legislation, entitled the “VAWA Bridge Act,” would set aside up to $1 million for the Department of Law and Public Safety.
“The refusal of House Republicans to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act jeopardizes the ability of programs in New Jersey to continue to provide important services to protect women against acts of violence,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex/Passaic). “Without the VAWA grants, programs could be forced to close their doors after the First of March when their funding will run dry. This appropriation will provide enough funding to bridge the gap until Congress does the right thing and renews the act.”
The law was originally enacted in 1994 and repeatedly reauthorized with bipartisan support until conservative lawmakers allowed it to expire in 2011 by blocking its reauthorization. Democrats and Republicans in the Senate voted to renew the law in April of 2012, but the House Republicans refused to even allow a vote on the measure before the clock expired on the congressional session. The Senate reauthorization included provisions that would specifically extend the VAWA protections to Native Americans and to the LGBT community.
“VAWA helped to transform the Nation’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Significant progress has been made in preventing crimes of violence against women, prosecuting those who commit them and treating its victims, but it still remains a significant problem and a real threat. This progress should not be lost to the inaction of House Republicans.”
The bridge funding would be available to grantees that would be forced to close their doors when the federal funds expire. Even if they have to scale back services, they would be able to continue to operate until Congress acts, Senator Weinberg noted. The services include sheltering, counseling and police education.
Nationally, funding from VAWA provided training for more than 500,000 judges, prosecutors and police officers to better equip them to recognize and respond to cases of violence against women. The rate of domestic violence dropped by more than 60 percent during the years the law was in place, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. But, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network estimates that a woman is assaulted nearly every two minutes somewhere in the country.
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