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Volume 15, No. 10

June 6, 2013

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Budget cuts deep for domestic violence victims

Published Wednesday, May 22, 2013

by Taylor Shaw

RALEIGH – Domestic violence victims struggling to escape abuse and restart their lives

may have trouble finding help if funds are cut to state-supported legal aid groups.

The Governor’s Crime Commission, part of the state Department of Public Safety,

trimmed its domestic violence grants to legal aid groups by 54 percent this year, from

$1.2 million in 2012 to $553,000.

“Cutting legal aid funding for domestic violence not only endangers victims, it ignores

the money we save the state by reducing burdens on other service providers,” said

George Hausen, executive director of Legal Aid of N.C.

Legal Aid of N.C.’s grant to provide services statewide was sliced from $960,000 to $553,000, and its $120,000 grant to serve Forsyth and surrounding counties was

eliminated. Pisgah Legal Services in Asheville also lost its $132,000 grant to help six

western counties.

Gov. Pat McCrory’s proposed budget for 2013-2015 eliminates the $671,000 allotted to

legal aid groups by the General Assembly for 2012-13.

Legal Aid received a majority of the funds, about $535,000, with the remainder divided

among three other aid groups: Pisgah Legal Services, Legal Services of Southern

Piedmont in Charlotte and the Financial Protection Law Center in Wilmington.

“These funding cuts are completely at odds with the General Assembly’s efforts to expand access to the court system,” Hausen said. “People forced to navigate the courts without the expert help of a lawyer have little chance of achieving justice and tax our already overburdened judicial system.”

About 75,000 victims, mostly women and children, seek protective orders annually from state courts or are served by the network of prevention programs. Shelter and support services like Durham Crisis Response Center rely on Legal Aid for assistance with clients.

Aurelia Sands Belle, DCRC’s executive director, said Legal Aid’s assistance is a “tremendous benefit.” She also stated the services they provide may look different around the state and with other agencies that aid victims of domestic violence.

The Triangle Tribune | Sports | Black Community Newspaper - Budget cuts deep for domestic violence victims

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job listings plus key job, salary, & career info Along with legal advocacy, DCRC provides counseling,

Along with legal advocacy, DCRC provides counseling, support groups and shelter to survivors and their families. Over 100 cases of domestic violence-related homicides are recorded by the attorney general’s office. Studies have shown that access to legal aid is the most effective means for reducing incidents of domestic violence.

“Securing protective orders keeps uninsured victims out of emergency rooms, helping victims find housing and employment keeps them off welfare rolls. Putting children in safe and stable environments helps them achieve in school and become productive citizens. These cuts will result in long-term losses in the name of illusory short-term budget goals,” Hausen said.

Legal Aid of N.C. is a nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people in order to ensure equal access to justice and remove legal barriers to economic opportunity. Learn more at www.legalaidnc.org.

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