SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom today announced a series of new initiatives to support victims of domestic violence amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, including $5 million in state funding, a new partnership to secure private funding with $3 million in seed funding, an executive order to help ease the financial strain on domestic violence service providers, and new private sector partnerships to support survivors fleeing violence.
“Text 911 is a critical tool that will help keep all Californians safe, including victims of domestic violence,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “These initiatives and additional funding will provide much-needed support to those whose homes are not the safe place they should be.”
“We must continue to look at the impacts of COVID-19 through a gendered lens, including the tragic increase in domestic violence incidents since the crisis began,” said First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. “I am proud that California is stepping up to support all victims and survivors, and we must continue to do more to end violence against women, and domestic violence more broadly.”
Crisis hotlines, women’s shelters, and public safety officers are reporting a higher number of calls and reports of domestic violence across California since the COVID-19 outbreak and the issuance of the stay-at-home orders.
Between February 24 and May 19, there were a total of 8,371 calls to the National Domestic Violence Hotline from California. Out of those calls, between March 16 and May 19, 1,027 were specifically related to COVID-19. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, California is in the top percentile of COVID-related calls in the nation.
Anyone experiencing domestic violence should call the state’s 24-hour hotline (800-799-7233) or the national hotline (800-799-SAFE).
Today, the Governor announced the following new initiatives:
Text to 911:
Cal OES’ Public Safety Communications branch has rolled out the “text-to-911” capability throughout the state, allowing individuals to text ‘911’ for emergency services. As of today, 75 percent of California’s population can actively send texts to 911, including almost every major metropolitan area.
In addition, Cal OES is in the midst of enabling “text from 911” capabilities at all public safety answering points in the state. This capability allows 911 dispatchers to text a caller back in the event their call is disconnected. These improved 911 texting solutions benefit victims of domestic violence and other crimes, and were made available through the Governor’s 2019-20 budget.
Last week, Governor Newsom signed an executive order to ease financial burdens on domestic violence centers. The order waives a requirement for domestic violence centers to provide a 10 percent match in funds. Senator Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) has worked extensively on domestic violence issues, including introducing legislation relating to this match requirement.
“I want to thank Governor Newsom for collaborating with me to ensure domestic violence victims are not forgotten during these uncertain times,” said Senator Rubio. “Waiving this requirement for shelters provides relief to programs offering essential services to victims in need, and I look forward to working with the Governor on this issue.”
The state is directing $5.3 million in existing Victims of Crime Act funds to three coalitions to support efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic: (1) $3 million to California Partnership to End Domestic Violence; (2) $1.6 million to California Coalition on Sexual Assault; and (3) $721,337 Children’s Advocacy Centers of California. These coalitions will distribute funds to local victim service providers.
The federal COVID-19 package included $45 million in funding for Family Violence Prevention and Services grants, with $4,154,993 to California.
In addition to the state funding, the Women’s Foundation of California has committed to working with the state to raise private funds that support domestic violence organizations and, in the longer-term, strengthens organizations centering on gender in California’s economic recovery plan. The Foundation’s Relief and Resilience Fund has to date raised $3 million, including seed funding from Blue Shield of California Foundation, and early partnerships with Levi Strauss Foundation and Stuart Foundation. These funds have already been directed to 130 domestic violence shelter organizations caring for survivors and their children facing increased risk of violence as a result of COVID-19 and shelter in place policies. The Women’s Foundation has a goal of raising an additional $42 million by the end of 2020.
“A gender justice approach needs to be at the forefront of our response not only to this current crisis but to the longstanding challenges of inequality that persist in California,” said Surina Khan, Women’s Foundation California CEO. “This first-of-its kind fund will bolster the immediate and direct services needed to provide relief while also advancing the kind of meaningful policy shifts that Women’s Foundation California is known for – policies that support resilience and equity across racial, economic, and gender lines.”
Free Accommodations and Free Transportation:
The state is partnering with the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV), Airbnb and Uber to provide free accommodation and transportation to victims of domestic violence.
“Isolation and financial stress pose significant risks for survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Krista Niemczyk, Public Policy Manager at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. “Transportation and a safe place to live are two basic needs that lay the foundation for healing. With this package of protections, Governor Newsom, the First Partner, Uber and Airbnb have helped restore survivors’ self-determination.”
Through a new pilot program funded by Airbnb Co-founder, CEO and Head of Community Brian Chesky, Airbnb will provide domestic violence victims in the Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles areas access to no-cost accommodations for up to 30 days. Reservations will be conducted in a manner that protects both the anonymity and privacy of the victim. Airbnb and the Governor’s Office are working collaboratively to explore expanding the pilot program to other California cities.
Also in partnership with the state and CPEDV, Uber is providing 3,000 free rides in Los Angeles and San Francisco to transport victims of domestic violence to safety during shelter in place with a plan to offer additional free rides statewide.