(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)— the lead Democrat of the Appropriations Subcommittee that funds Violence Against Women Act programs — and U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter to Senate leaders last week with a group of 20 Senators, asking that future legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic also include resources to meet domestic and sexual violence survivors’ urgent housing needs, which have been exacerbated by stay-at-home orders, social distancing and the ongoing economic upheaval caused by COVID-19. This new letter follows Shaheen and Hassan’s previous bipartisan call to the Senate leadership and appropriators urging for increased funding for victims of domestic violence amid the pandemic.
“Communities need a surge of resources to meet survivors’ diverse housing needs, increase the capacity of local programs to address those needs, and be responsive to the housing availability in each community,” wrote the Senators. “Local programs are working to reduce the number of families in their shelters to respond to calls for social distancing. Some shelters will not be admitting new clients but will be looking to house clients in hotels, motels, or rental properties. Others are working to support survivors who have recently secured independent housing only to lose their jobs and economic stability as a result of COVID-19. Once the immediate health crisis subsides, there will be an influx of need as survivors make plans to escape while facing continued economic strain.”
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) led the group of 22 Senators in sending the letter. Full text of the letter can be found here.
Last week, the entire New Hampshire congressional delegation urged courts and state officials in New Hampshire to issue guidance prohibiting the release of offenders convicted of domestic violence and sex offenses. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, New Hampshire correctional facilities have released inmates in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. The delegation’s statement comes as concerns were raised with the release of an inmate in Carroll Country who was a violent offender.
Senator Shaheen has long-championed legislation to protect and empower survivors of domestic and sexual violence from housing discrimination. In December, Shaheen introduced the Fair Housing for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Survivors Act of 2019, which would set a nationwide standard that survivors cannot be evicted or otherwise denied access to housing for being victims of those crimes. She also introduced the Combating Sexual Harassment in Housing Act, which would make it easier for victims to bring forward certain cases of sexual harassment under the Fair Housing Act. The lead Democrat of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds Violence Against Women Act programs, Shaheen successfully added the highest funding amount ever for Violence Against Women Act programs in fiscal year 2020 government funding legislation, totaling $502.5 million.