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State Audit Provides Recommendations for Domestic Violence Shelter Funding

The Missouri State Auditor’s Office released a report on September 17 detailing Domestic Violence Shelter Funding through the collection and distribution of marriage and civil case filing fees. The report evaluated local management and operations practices for collecting fees and how consistently those fees are distributed. Under state statute, marriage license and civil case filing fees can be collected on the city and/or county level, and domestic violence shelters can apply to receive those funds; statute does not exist that requires local authorities to distribute the funds after fees are collected.

There are fifty-four domestic violence shelters located across Missouri, more than neighboring states. Some shelters provide services to multiple counties, and can potentially apply for funds collected from fees in more counties than just the one in which they are located. Shelters applying for funds from multiple counties must submit the same paperwork to each county and/or city government. One recommendation from the Auditor’s report is to create a centralized office that would streamline the process of applying for these funds. This recommendation highlights support the state can provide, while also reiterating that collaboration between local domestic violence shelters and county government helps to ensure locally collected fees support the life-saving services that domestic violence shelters provide.

Domestic violence shelters in Missouri receive funding from a variety of sources—federal and state grants, as well as other donations and fundraisers. While locally collected fees might make up a smaller amount of a shelter’s budget, every dollar counts, and locally collected fees are vital to domestic violence shelter’s overall operating budget. The statute establishing locally collected fees be distributed to domestic violence shelters was the first established domestic violence specific funding in Missouri.

The Auditor’s report highlights that more than 28,000 requests for shelter and other services were unmet in 2017. These unmet requests should be put into context of another factor—many survivors and their families are staying in domestic violence shelters longer due to a lack of affordable, stable housing options. In just one day in 2017 there were 287 unmet requests that were housing specific. MCADSV has a robust data collection system that gathers information on services requested and provided by MCADSV member programs, which was referenced in the Auditor’s report. Data collection is an important aspect of our work as we draw from a variety of research in order to make more informed, data-driven public policy decisions.

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