The Maricopa County Domestic Violence Assistance Program assists thousands of domestic and sexual violence survivors throughout the region. Grants provided through the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (ACESDV) assist various domestic violence shelters and service providers with their ability to maintain and improve services to survivors. As of March 2022, Maricopa County has invested nearly $15 million in federal funding to address an increased need for domestic violence services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Problem or Need for the Program
The COVID-19 pandemic introduced a number of stressors into the community as people adjusted to new protocols for health and safety. In some cases, the pandemic also exacerbated or even created financial and health problems. During the pandemic, domestic violence increased across major cities nationwide by anywhere from approximately 10% to more than 25%. For example, the Phoenix Police Department reported that, compared to January-August 2019, January-August 2020 showed more than a 180% increase in domestic violence deaths. Additionally, the shelters/service providers that serve the victims/survivors of domestic violence acts have experienced approximately a 10% decline in revenue. These organizations have been unable to obtain the grants and other donations needed to provide services to survivors and therefore have been forced to decrease their services at a time when the community was demonstrating an increased need. Maricopa County saw an opportunity to assist these organizations through the American Rescue Plan Act funding.
Description of the Program
The Maricopa County Domestic Violence Assistance Program, through the Maricopa County Human Services Department, designated part of its federal American Rescue Plan Act (State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds) funding to provide nearly $15 million to the largest coordinator of domestic violence services in the County, the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence (ACESDV). This organization was tasked with administering grants to shelters and service providers allowing these grantees to continue providing as well as improve their services to survivors.
Funds were allocated towards gap funding ($5 million) and competitive grants ($10 million). Gap funding grants are provided to all shelters/providers that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic such as through a loss in revenue, increase in costs, or a combination of those factors that are putting a financial strain on the providers. The competitive grants are focused on improving the services that shelters/service providers implement allowing them to better provide evidence-based services, improve the efficiency of operations, and better meet the changing needs of clients. Grant applicants seeking funding through this grant are expected to provide unique, evidence-based, or otherwise enhance programs to help meet client needs. ACESDV processes all grant applications provide technical assistance to address issues and documentation, and submits a request to the County to approve a specified amount of funds. Note: Funding recommendation may be less than the amount the applicant requested depending on ACESDV’s assessment of the application.
To ensure the program operates effectively, the County receives regular detailed performance reports from ACESDV on grants disbursed and services provided to clients with the grant funds. The County confers with ACESDV as needed to address issues or requests from applicants and ensure the program is operating effectively. Further, each domestic violence shelter is responsible for tracking the use of grant funds and providing accurate information (which must be supported with documentation) to ACESDV and the County that consists of information on the clients served through various methods such as community services, counseling services, financial services, legal services, and other services. The County reviews the information to help ensure the funds are reaching a broad spectrum of service providers and effectively serving these vulnerable populations.
Responding to Economic Downturn
The COVID-19 pandemic caused the need for isolation, quarantine and social distancing measures affecting businesses and organizations throughout the State of Arizona. Maricopa County was particularly hit hard by these circumstances because the County holds a majority of the population and businesses in the State. For many nonprofit providers, this caused a significant decrease in their ability to hold critical fundraising events which are key to allowing these organizations to fund their ongoing operations. Domestic violence shelters and service providers suffered these same issues. Specifically, through the gap funding grants, the County found it could not only assist some of its key partners, but could also help provide human services to large numbers of vulnerable persons and help the community violence intervention services continue. As mentioned, in Phoenix alone, domestic violence deaths increased more than 180% during the pandemic and numerous reports show a similar increase in police calls regarding domestic violence. This, coupled with the revenue decreases for providers causes a significant strain on the domestic violence service system. Although the number of funding deficits varied by organization, many saw at least a 10% decrease in revenue in addition to increased costs from implementing COVID-19 prevention/isolation protocols. However, domestic violence shelters and service providers continued to serve as many members as possible through these funds. For example, with the additional funds provided from these grants, providers in the County have helped serve nearly 18,000 people with shelter, community-based services, financial assistance, and legal assistance (see results section).
Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
During the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the hardest-hit individuals in the County were those affected by domestic and sexual violence. Although victims of domestic violence range in ethnicity, race, and background, it is most often minorities who have been victims of these acts, and through these grants not only is the County assisting a diverse population but it is improving the equity of these individuals through these grants. Specifically, these grants help domestic violence providers assist survivors with housing (shelter), financial assistance, legal assistance, and counseling to help them work past the trauma of their situation and move on to a better life. These actions are critical ensuring an inclusive community that looks after those who have been some of the hardest hit individuals in this pandemic.
The Cost of the Program
The entire cost of the program to Maricopa County is $15 million. This program is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act and that the County provided these funds to the largest domestic violence coordinator in the County to subgrant funds to local shelters and service providers. Funds were allocated towards gap funding ($5 million) and competitive grants ($10 million). Additionally, approximately 10 percent of the funds will be used by ACESDV to administer the grants and operate their Domestic Violence Hotline (approximately 2 FTE). Since this is a grant program, each County may have different number of domestic violence service providers, coordinating organizations/coalitions, and different populations with diverse needs. Grant distribution through flexible federal funding sources is something that can be cost-effectively implemented in most, if not all counties. It is also important to consider the indirect costs of not supporting this type of program. For example, the loss of one domestic violence shelter in Maricopa County could cause more than 1000 persons to not receive the domestic/sexual violence services they need or the victim may be forced to be on a waitlist and continue to live with the abuser, or become homeless.
Results/Success of the Program
To date more than $3 million in gap funding has been provided to 9 agencies to help these organizations continue operations. These agencies' services, in addition to the direct services ACESDV provides, assisted nearly 18,000 survivors of sexual and domestic violence to date. This includes:
- 16,770 survivors with community-based services
- 179 survivors with shelter services
- 126 survivors with legal, financial, and counseling services
- 917 survivors through a Domestic Violence Crisis Hotline
Worthiness of Award
This program deserves the Achievement Award because of helps fill a critical gap in services to County residents, its applicability to many other counties, and demonstrated results. Specifically, in many counties such as Maricopa County, the county provides some services which may indirectly help domestic violence victims through housing, workforce assistance, criminal justice support, rarely does a county directly assist the key organizations that serve these vulnerable populations daily. These populations are often marginalized from society and not often discussed in public policy. Through direct initiative in assisting these organizations, Maricopa County has demonstrated it can produce significant changes in its communities and cause positive ripple effects through other county services such as its attorney’s office that processes cases, its sheriff’s office that deals with domestic violence calls, its housing and workforce programs that help survivors pick up their lives, and many other county-administered programs. Further, assisting survivors through grants to organizations is a cost-effective way to address ongoing community violence issues that face many counties. Finally, although results will vary depending on the county implementing this program, the simple, yet effective, practices Maricopa County has adopted have demonstrated the program can have significant positive results.