Sexual And Domestic Violence Victim Services Among Those Impacted By State Budget Stalemate
As the state budget impasse continues, organizations that provide assistance to those in need across Pennsylvania are going into debt to cover costs.
"It has been a roller coaster you don't want to ride."
Victim Outreach Intervention Center (VOICe) is one of those. The Butler County organization provides services to individuals and families who are survivors of sexual, domestic and other types of violence. Executive Director Heidi Artman said the organization relies heavily on state funding and she sums up the last few months as such.
“It’s has been a rollercoaster that you don’t want to ride,” said Artman.
VOICe serves roughly 2,300 people a year and fields about 50 to 60 calls a day on their crisis hotline.
VOICe is still fully-staffed and offering all services, but it was looking bleak for a bit. The organization had a $200,000 reserve to tap into, but Artman said that wouldn’t get them very far. Five employees volunteered to be laid off, but their jobs were spared thanks to a building VOICe owns.
“We were able to extend our line of credit after a costly appraisal of that property, we extended our line of credit to $500,000. Now, how we are going to pay that interest?” asked Artman.
That is an unknown because the interest and appraisal costs can’t be paid back using their current funding sources, according to Artman.
“We go into debt, we go into debt, we’ll figure it out,” she said, “but we will remain open and all services will remain intact and we will remain fully-staffed.”
VOICe is one of many organizations participating in a social media campaign started by the Pittsburgh Foundation and United Way of Allegheny County. #PAPeopleCount highlights stories of those impacted by the budget impasse in an effort to urge lawmakers to pass it. While services are still being offered, Artman said VOICe is essentially operating in crisis mode at the moment.
“Under the best of circumstances this is hard work, and then you throw on top of that, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to have a job tomorrow,' just unacceptable,” she said.
In addition to passing a budget, #PAPeopleCount participants are also calling for budget reform to avoid situations like this from happening in the future.