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Washington lawmakers in final negotiations over budget, domestic violence funding

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Organizations that provide services to crime victims are facing a 30% cut in federal funding.

Those funds came from penalties levied from federal prosecutions -- mostly white-collar crime. That pot has declined over the last several years, but this year the funding is taking a sudden dive, likely caused by pandemic disruptions.

A coalition of organizations asked the state for a $132 million-dollar investment to cover the gap and address an increasing demand for services.

Lawmakers are in final negotiations over a budget proposal that would replace lost funding.

Emily Stone, Public Policy Director for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said without state funding, many local services for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence are at risk.

“Programs already have significant wait list, so these projected cuts are astronomical. It means losing full time staff, it means cutting down on services, it means closing doors,” Stone said. “So, really we went into the session just trying to maintain existing service levels.”

With just a little over week left of the session, lawmakers are now finalizing the budget. Representative Timm Ormsby, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said his chamber’s proposal is designed to provide funding until Federal aid rebounds.

“What we did to figure out what is a good move was went to the highest biennial amount in recent years, pre-pandemic, and we backfilled the lack of Federal dollars with $41 million dollars of state money to get back to the high-water mark,” he said.

Ormsby said domestic violence service providers are among many organizations facing funding challenges after a drop in federal funds, or pandemic aid.

Senate budget negotiator Karen Keiser said her chamber’s version allocates $60 million over two years. She said her goal is to tide over service organizations until the revenue from federal criminal penalties recovers.

Stone said she’s hoping the two chambers will combine their proposals, about $101 million.

She said that would address inflation, provide some ongoing funding beyond the two-year budgeting cycle, and cover the gap in federal funding.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.