Violence Against Women Act Expires Due to Government Shutdown
Funding for multiple programs included in the Violence Against Women Act—all which support survivors of physical and sexual abuse—is on hold until the government reauthorizes the act or passes the current spending bill.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) expired on Friday at midnight for the second time in 25 years and remains expired due to the partial government shutdown which began around the same time on Friday.
VAWA, passed into law in 1994, aims to support women who've survived intimate partner violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the United States, through a series of government-funded programs, VAWA funds shelters, crisis centers, legal assistance, and more. Future funding that would have extended the act until February 8 was included within the federal budget that the House and Senate failed to pass, due specifically to the $5.7 billion request from President Trump for building a wall on the US–Mexico border.
The failure to pass a budget and the subsequent shutdown will block many of these programs from receiving the funds they need to operate until VAWA is reauthorized. The Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) distribute the majority of funding for the Violence Against Women Act. Because Congress cleared HHS funding for 2019 in September, VAWA programs funded through the HHS may be able to continue. Those funded through the Department of Justice, however, whose funding is dependent on the current spending bill, will not be able to fill new payment requests until the act is reauthorized.
Earlier this year, Democrats in Congress fought to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act which was set to expire in September, then extended through December 7, and again extended through December 21. In mid-September, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent a public letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan criticizing Republicans' failure to support and prioritize legislation dedicated to reauthorizing VAWA and Republicans' inclusion of only short-term reauthorizations in spending bills when they do. Citing the VAWA Reauthorization Act of 2018, introduced by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, Pelosi wrote, "It is shocking and shameful that under your leadership, the GOP has refused to bring this reauthorization bill to the Floor for a vote. Republicans’ decision to include only a short-term VAWA reauthorization in the must-pass minibus spending bill is nothing short of an abdication of our responsibilities to women in our country."
For now, grants which were previously awarded under the act will not be affected, but future payment requests will be on hold until the Violence Against Women Act is reauthorized.