As Reports of Domestic and Sexual Violence Increase During COVID-19 Crisis, Tester Urges Congress to Provide Additional Support for Victims

Senator leads bipartisan group of colleagues in demanding any new coronavirus legislation grant additional funding to support victims and survivors

As local law enforcement and service providers raise the alarm about increased domestic violence and sexual assault reports during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today led a bipartisan group of colleagues in urging Congressional leadership to provide additional funding to programs that support victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, including those authorized by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).

“Following the urging of public health officials, approximately 95% of Americans are now living under a stay-at-home order to help prevent the spread of the virus. But for many, home is not a safe place. Reports suggest that abusers are using COVID-19 to isolate their victims, withhold financial resources, and refuse medical aid,” wrote the Senators in a letter to Senate and House leadership.

They continued: “While [the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act] funding provides critical resources, the legislation did not include any additional support for sexual assault or domestic violence-related programs funded through the Department of Justice. These programs deliver essential support that is particularly needed at this time, including support for sexual assault service providers, law enforcement, and transitional housing programs, as well as for organizations that address the needs of communities of color and underserved populations.”

Tester and his colleagues are highlighting the need for increased funding for programs that support victims of violence, including children, during the COVID-19 pandemic as local law enforcement agencies receive higher volumes of domestic abuse reports. Rape crisis centers and domestic violence service providers are already facing funding and staffing challenges, and many need additional resources to continue providing health, housing, and other services during this crisis.

The Senators are also requesting that the federal government fulfill its trust responsibility to Tribes by ensuring that future COVID-19-related funding goes towards combatting sexual assault and domestic violence in Indian Country where women are disproportionately more likely to face violence.

Tester is urging Congressional leadership to ensure that any future COVID-19 legislation includes:

  • $100 million for the Sexual Assault Service Program;
  • $225 million for VAWA Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors (STOP) Grants;
  • $10 million for Grants for Outreach and Services to Underserved Populations;
  • $40 million to VAWA Transitional Housing Assistance Grants;
  • Waiving any matching requirements for Victims of Crimes Act during this crisis in order to more quickly meet survivors’ needs;
  • Funding for Tribal VAWA programs, including $22.5 million for grants to Tribal governments, $10 million to Tribes under the Sexual Assault Services Program, $3 million for Tribal jurisdiction, and $3 million for Tribal coalitions; and
  • $16,765,000 additional set aside for Tribal governments through the Office of Victims of Crime

  • Earlier this month, Tester voted for the CARES Act, which provided $45 million for the Family Violence Preventions Services grants to assist victims of domestic violence, and $2 million to support the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The bill also provided critical support for Montana families, workers, first responders, health care providers, and others hardest hit by the outbreak, including $1.25 billion for the state of Montana.

    Read the Senators’ full letter to congressional leadership HERE.

    Visit for a list of resources for Montanans during the COVID-19 outbreak