A public grant program which provides funding and help to victims of sexual assault in Wisconsin is scheduled for a significant cut in 2012, posing a threat to its available services.
According to a statement from the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the funding for the Sexual Assault Victim Services program will be reduced by 42.5 percent from current levels.
The cuts will create a drastic deficit in the state of Wisconsin, Pennie Meyers, WCASA interim executive director, said in a statement.
“SAVS and the local sexual assault service providers it funds are directly responsible for helping victims and are instrumental in efforts to hold perpetrators accountable,” she said. “There is no substitute for SAVS in Wisconsin.”
According to the statement, SAVS is the only provider of funding for services that include advocacy and counseling services, 24/7 crisis telephone services, intervention and prevention education and services for at-risk or hard-to-reach victims statewide.
WCASA spokesperson John Keckhaver said the cuts will affect service providers’ ability to provide staff, counseling and crisis hotlines.
Kelly Anderson, executive director of the Dane County Rape Crisis Center, said the cuts make it impossible for her agency and others to maintain their current level of services.
“We’ll be working with our board and our funding community of donors to do everything we can, but the reality is that you can’t keep providing the same level with fewer people,” she said. “Given our budget, less money means fewer people.”
Keckhaver said the cuts could result in counseling staff layoffs and a decrease in crisis hotline availability.
Anderson called the cuts a “huge blow” to the Rape Crisis Center and all providers of sexual assault services statewide.
She added service providers had already shouldered a 10 percent cut before being hit with the latest round.
Keckhaver said the SAVS program is funded with a surcharge or money paid by people who are convicted of crimes, particularly felonies.
He added, however, the money coming from surcharges has been going down, and it is an unreliable source of funding.
Supporters of the budget cut, which, according to Anderson, originated in the governor’s office, maintain that cuts to numerous state programs are necessary to keep the state’s economy on its feet.
This latest cut is one of many intended to streamline Wisconsin’s spending and rebuild the sinking state economy.
In a speech earlier this year, Gov. Scott Walker said he would make a $4.2 billion, or 6.7 percent, cut to statewide spending. That sum, he said, was necessary to counter the state’s existing $3.6 billion deficit.
Part of this, he said, involves making cuts to state-funded programs.