New State Budget Is Good News For Domestic Violence Agency
Courage Connection is rebuilding its staff, now that a new state budget has brought expectations that state funding will resume.
The Champaign-based agency for victims of domestic violence was forced to lay off about ten of its 45 employees, due to the state budget impasse and an unexpected cut in a federal grant.
But executive director Isak Griffiths says now that lawmakers have enacted its first full state budget in two years, they plan to refill some of the positions that had been cut.
“We’re definitely hiring, we’re looking for great folks to join our team, so that we don’t burn out while we’re providing the services”, said Griffiths. “At the same time, we know that cuts are likely to be coming, even if it doesn’t happen in Fiscal Year ’18.”
Griffiths says she thinks those cuts in Courage Connection’s state funding will likely come as part of reductions in the new state budget, or the next one. Despite a hike in the state income tax, the state has cut spending in order to deal with a backlog of bills --- including payments owed to Courage Connection.
But Griffiths says reduced state funding that comes in on a reliable schedule will be better than the indefinitely delayed delivery of more than $300,000 from the state that Courage Connection was waiting for in the fiscal year that ended June 30th.
In order to keep its doors open, Courage Connection turned to the local community to raise funds. With the help of a $50,000 match challenge from the Junior League of Champaign-Urbana, the fundraising campaign raised $390,991, surpassing a $350,000 goal.
Griffiths said the fundraising campaign did more than take care of her organization’s financial needs for FY 2017 --- she says it also helped strengthen its community ties.
“There are a lot of folks who have a better understanding of the services that we provide, and the value that we bring to the community. It’s helped people who used to be engaged with the agency re-engage after several years of having other focuses in the community.”
Griffiths says they don’t yet know precisely when state funding for Courage Connection will resume. But she says she hopes lawmakers continue to debate the issues that led to the budget impasse in the first place, so that agreements can be reached on reforms that can prevent another budget stalemate from building up in Springfield a year from now.
Courage Connection bills itself as the nation’s oldest domestic violence agency, dating back to the founding of A Woman’s Place in Urbana in 1971. Today, the agency operates a domestic violence shelter with emergency and transitional housing for single women and women with children, and a variety of support services such as a 24-hour hotline, domestic violence counseling, court advocacy, and financial and life skills counseling.