In October, the District Attorney of Shawnee County, which encompasses Topeka, Kansas, announced that he would cease to prosecute domestic violence cases within the city of Topeka.
He argued that with recent budget cuts he no longer had sufficient resources and that the city should take on the burden of these prosecutions.
The city council responded by repealing their ordinance against domestic violence!
After a week of adverse national publicity and vociferous lobbying from women’s organizations, the District Attorney agreed to resume domestic violence prosecutions. The speed with which the council was prepared to abolish their statute in order to defend their budget was scary, particularly after a quick look at what has been happening in the women’s shelter system nationally over the last few years.
The Department of Justice states that families under serious financial strain are three times more likely to be affected by domestic violence. According to the “Domestic Violence Counts” 2010 survey, 82% of programs nationally reported a higher demand for services, which they attributed to the worsened economy. Yet the same survey found that 77% of programs reported a decrease in funding.
In Kansas, on any given night, most of the domestic violence shelters are full. Many are operating over capacity. And the shelter operators expect their government budget to be cut by 10% by the end of the year. Of 103 homicides in the state in 2010, 32 were related to domestic violence, and police saw an increase of 11% in arrests arising from reports of domestic violence. Hardly the best moment for Topeka to abolish its city laws against domestic abuse.
Cuts in Social Programs
This model of cuts at a time of increased need for services is unfortunately hardly limited to victims of domestic violence. With falling revenues, many states are cutting their spending on the welfare-to-work program known as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). TANF is supposed to provide child care for working parents in families on or below the poverty line.
As unemployment and poverty rise amongst women, the states are reducing their responsibilities to the program by simply lowering the income requirements, cutting off many families that are already below the poverty line.
Despite this, in 22 states there are waiting lists for TANF. In two states, Pennsylvania and Arkansas, there are over 10,000 children on the waiting list. Waiting lists that big mean thousands of eligible recipients are effectively being denied access to the program. Imagine a similar situation in public education: “Sorry, we know your child should be in 2nd grade, but we don’t have any room at the moment. We may be able to find a place for them next year.”
As well as simply denying the service to people who ought to be entitled to it, states have raised family co-pays dramatically and cut the level of reimbursement to child-care providers, with only two states paying at the federally recommended rate.
Little Child Care, Few Jobs
For women, cuts in social services like these have a huge double whammy effect. Not only are they more in need of the services being cut, such as child-care provision and pre-school and after-school programs in order to work, but it is they who are most likely to work in these service areas. Every women’s shelter closed equals jobs lost, every reduction in TANF provision for families leads to closure of day-cares, every cut in education spending leads to job losses in a 75% female workforce.
Given the wealth that exists in our society, it is obscene that battered women, children raised in poverty, and those workers, both men and women, who work in social services assisting those in need should be paying for a budget crisis caused by banks and corporations.
That is why Socialist Alternative stands for the end of all budget cuts to education and social services. Full funding for all community needs. The federal government should bail out states to prevent cuts and layoffs. A massive increase in taxes should be implemented on the rich and big business, not working people.