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Reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention Services Act in 2019

FVPSA Has Expired!

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act Grants to American Indian Tribes are formula grants funded through a 10% allocation under the FVPSA appropriation. FVPSA is the only federal grant dedicated to domestic violence shelter and supportive services. A tribal domestic violence shelter or safe home can provide Native women the support, advocacy, and emergency services they need to escape abuse and violence.
“The FVPSA provides tribes with lifesaving grants for shelter and supportive services to survivors of domestic violence and family violence.”—Michael Williams, Secretary/Treasurer, Akiak Native Community
FVPSA funds are also used for supportive services. Tribes have used FVPSA funds in efforts to increase public awareness, for supportive services for victims and their dependents, and services. Yet, despite these advances, funding and services remain nonexistent for over one-half of all Indian tribes and tribally based technical assistance must increase.

Three other essential tribal programs funded by FVPSA include the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center (NIWRC) serving as the National Indian Resource Center, the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC) serving as the Alaska Native Tribal Resource Center providing assistance to the 229 Indian tribes in Alaska, and the StrongHearts Native Helpline the only national domestic violence hotline that is tribally based. The last two programs are currently funded only through the FY 2019 Congressional appropriations. Unfortunately, funding for both of these programs is on a discretionary, non-permanent, basis.

Support S. 2259

The FVPSA must be reauthorized in 2019. The overarching theme of our recommendations is based on one simple fact. Tribal governments, tribal coalitions, and tribal people are best equipped and situated to help American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) survivors of domestic violence and abuse. The current breakdown of FVPSA funding allows AI/AN survivors to fall through the cracks and only by making tribal programs permanent (such as AKNWRC and Strong Hearts) and reallocating funding percentages to meet current needs can more AI/AN survivors be helped. The NCAI Task Force and NIWRC support S. 2259. It includes four tribal amendments to strengthen tribal capacity to provide shelter and supportive services by authorizing:

  1. An increase in the tribal government percentage to increase the reach of tribal shelter and supportive services.
  2. Formula funding for the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center to serve as the Alaska Native Tribal Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
  3. Permanent funding of the StrongHearts Native Helpline to serve as the National Indian Domestic Violence Helpline.
  4. Formula funding for the Tribal Domestic Violence Coalitions to provide training and technical assistance.

Increased Tribal Government Grant Program Funding

Before 1994 Alaska Tribes were not eligible for funding through FVPSA. In a Solicitor’s Opinion issued 1/11/1993, entitled “governmental Jurisdictional Alaska Native Villages Over Land and Nonmembers,” the Solicitor rejected the view that Alaska Native Villages were not tribes. As a result of this decision, roughly 220+ tribes became eligible to apply for FVPSA funding—nearly doubling the eligible tribes, but not increasing the amount available to tribes.

Permanent Authorization of the Alaska Native Tribal Resource Center on Domestic Violence supporting the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center (AKNWRC)

Located in Fairbanks, the AKNWRC serves as a domestic violence resource center for 229 Indian tribes in Alaska. The AKNWRC is committed to strengthening local, tribal government responses through community organizing efforts, advocating for the safety of Native women and children in their villages and homes, especially against domestic and gender-based violence. The AKNWRC provides assistance to Alaska Native villages through providing technical assistance and training, including needs assessments; public awareness/resource development; policy development and systems advocacy/engagement; and, advocacy on an Alaska Native program of research and knowledge development.


Permanent Authorization of the StrongHearts Native Helpline

Trained with a strong understanding of Tribal cultures, sovereignty, and law, StrongHearts advocates offer one-on-one, peer-to-peer support, and referrals to local resources in a safe and healing environment. All calls are anonymous and confidential. To date, StrongHearts (1-844-7NATIVE) has received more than 1,400 calls from survivors, concerned family members and friends, service providers and more, helping to close the gap in culturally appropriate resources for American Indians and Alaska Natives facing domestic violence. As the first culturally-appropriate domestic violence helpline specifically targeting Native Americans, StrongHearts is also expanding its staff of advocates to respond to callers, many of whom are seeking support as they navigate difficult barriers to justice and safety.

Creation and Permanent Authorization of a Tribal Coalitions Grant Program

Tribal Coalitions exist throughout Indian Country to provide culturally specific training, technical assistance, and support to tribal governments and tribal victim services providers in their respective service area.  Currently, 18 tribal coalitions exist with more forming to address gaps in services and as need is demonstrated. A dedicated funding stream is needed under FVPSA to provide additional training, technical assistance, and support for the tribal governments. State governments are offered such a resource under FVPSA through the state coalitions program. State coalitions lack the expertise to provide such support to Indian tribes, and the creation of the tribal coalition program will fill this void. The overarching goal of Tribal Coalitions is to raise awareness, educate, and to provide culturally specific technical assistance, training, and services to advance and enhance the responses to domestic violence committed in Indian Country.

“The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act or FVPSA continues to be the federal government’s only dedicated funding source supporting domestic violence shelter and supportive services. While 10% of FVPSA funds are for tribal governments, it is important to note that this 10% was the set aside created before Alaska tribes were restored to the 1993 list of federally recognized tribes from the Department of Interior. This increased those eligible by 40% for the same 10% set aside. We urge the FVPSA Office to support the reauthorization of FVPSA introduced in the Senate July 24th (S. 2259) inclusive of the urgent lifesaving tribal amendments.”—Michael Williams, Secretary/Treasurer, Akiak Native Community, Annual VAW Consultation, August 21, 2019.