State Auditor Nicole Galloway today released a report on domestic violence shelter funding that found burdensome requirements in state law have meant an inefficient and uneven distribution of funding across Missouri.
The report found domestic violence victims are being turned away from shelters at a higher rate than the five neighboring states that provided information to the State Auditor's Office. In 2017, there were a reported 28,182 unmet requests for shelter and other services in Missouri.
“Victims of domestic violence shouldn’t be turned away because red tape is holding up shelter funding,” Auditor Galloway said. “Unfortunately, that’s happening in Missouri. A simplified and consolidated process – made possible by changes in the law – would cut down on the paperwork at the local level and make it easier to distribute funds to the shelters.”
To obtain funding collected by a city or county, domestic violence shelters must demonstrate to local officials that they meet a list of legal qualifications and also file an annual report with that local authority. Auditor Galloway said these requirements for information burden shelters, duplicating documentation already filed with the Department of Social Services and other state agencies in order to receive state and federal grant funding.
State law also does not require local authorities collecting domestic violence fees to actually distribute the funds or set a limit on the amount they can retain, in order to assure funds are being used to help Missourians in need. Auditor Galloway said there were 18 counties that did not distribute domestic violence fees in 2017; those counties had 2,679 domestic violence incidents reported last year. Lawmakers could require local authorities to distribute funds at least once a year.
There is no state agency charged with oversight of domestic violence shelter funding, so the Auditor’s Office compiled the information for the report by working with local governments and the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, a non-profit organization comprised of community-based domestic violence programs throughout the state.
The decentralized manner that Missouri uses in distributing domestic violence fees means that funds may not necessarily be utilized where there is a demand for services. The centralized model used by at least three surrounding states – Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee – allows fees to be more strategically distributed based on need, the Auditor said. A centralized registration and reporting system for shelters also would enable more consistent reporting and better oversight of domestic violence funds.
“The odds that survivors of domestic violence receive the help they need in Missouri should not depend on which counties they live,” Auditor Galloway said. “Lawmakers can streamline the process of getting money to the shelters. Let’s work together to help Missouri families.”
A copy of the report on domestic violence shelter funding is here.