Looking for a lifeline: Agencies warn New Yorkers less safe after drastic cutbacks to nonprofit funding

A total of 61 nonprofit organizations are facing the terrifying reality of losing millions of dollars in grant money from the state in a grant program that wasn't set to expire until the end of 2023.

News 12 Staff

Feb 14, 2022, 10:30 PM

Updated 827 days ago

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The Turn To Tara team has learned that dozens of nonprofits across New York state - groups that help victims of domestic violence, trafficking and more - are facing layoffs and program cuts after losing millions of dollars in state funding. 
A total of 61 nonprofit organizations are facing the terrifying reality of losing millions of dollars in grant money from the state in a grant program that wasn't set to expire until the end of 2023.
Now most of them are bracing for dramatic layoffs and cutbacks to legal services.
"There's a chance that our whole program could be shut down," says Stacey Neumann, the director of legal services at Hope's Door. 
Last year, Hope's Door assisted more than 1,000 victims of domestic violence.
Other agencies have already started slashing services.
"We immediately had to shut our intake down in all seven counties," says Rachel Halperin, CEO of Legal Services of the Hudson Valley. 
"Basically, people who need emergency order protections are not going to get them," says Cindy Kanusher, executive director of the Pace Women's Justice Center. 
That could be a huge safety risk for people who are living with domestic violence.
News 12 introduced you to Vaness Pahucki in our special report on domestic violence two years ago.
"He had broken my nose. I had two black eyes. I was battered all over," she said. 
Even though the Rockland County mom is safe today, she lives in fear of what will happen in the future when her abuser is released from prison - and the agencies that helped her survive are fighting to stay afloat.
"I have a son who is happy, loved. He doesn't…he doesn't know a life of abuse," says Pahucki. "These cuts are taking that away. Women are not going to leave. Victims are not going to leave. They're going to be too afraid."
After hearing from Pahucki and the other agencies, the Turn To Tara team reached out to the state Office of Victim's Services.  It said it was forced to make the cuts after funding from the federal victims of crime act dried up due to fewer prosecutions, especially in the areas of white-collar crimes.
These women are now calling on Gov. Kathy Hochul to put $25 million into her budget to prevent future tragedies.
"The scary part is that we won't know the repercussions of these cuts until 20-25 years from now...kids not being able to have the support that they need. Survivors who might not necessarily be able to call a helpline at 3 a.m. because we're not able to pick up the phone," says Clarissa Espinoza, assistant director of programs at WestCOP, Victims Assistance Services. 
News 12 is waiting to hear back from Gov. Hochul's team about the cuts.
A spokesperson from the Office of Victim Services released this statement:
In the wake of a 70% reduction in federal funding since 2018, we made the extremely difficult decision to end grant funding for civil legal assistance after four years, instead of five. While there is no question that civil legal help is important – OVS also created and continues to fund New York Crime Victims Legal Help – this decision allowed us to maximize the funding available for program to serve all victims and survivors for the next three years.
There was serious concern that there would be no funding to continue these services past Sept. 30, 2023. Ending the contracts early allows these providers to apply for civil legal funding through the request for applications just released by OVS: $330 million is available from Oct. 1, 2022 through Sept. 30, 2025.


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