Support Survivors Funding City Council Testimony
Teal Inzunza, LMSW
October 25, 2023
Good afternoon, Chair Cabán. My name is Teal Inzunza. I am the Program Director of the Economic Empowerment Program at the Urban Resource Institute (URI). I also co-chair a citywide taskforce called the Domestic Violence and Economic Justice Taskforce, which is composed of advocates from around NYC. I am thankful for the opportunity to testify before you and share why the Support Survivors microgrants are essential for survivor safety in NYC.
URI is grateful to the New York Council for advocating to include the Support Survivors microgrant program in this year’s budget. While advocates requested $6 million to fully fund the program, only $1.2 million was allocated. At $1.2 million, the program will only be able to provide $2,000 grants to 600 survivors. An infusion of $6 million would ensure that 2,250 survivors received at least $2000 in essential direct cash assistance. Just for reference, there are over 4,100 households in domestic violence shelters on any given night; even with $6 million, only half of all households in shelter would be able to access this vital program. This does not even account for the hundreds of survivors that are still residing with their abusive partner or those that are unable to access shelter. $1.2 million is simply not enough to meet the need.
It is important to understand that experiencing domestic or gender-based violence is extremely costly for survivors. In a survey conducted by Free From, survivors overwhelmingly stated that direct cash assistance was their most urgent need to find safety. In this national survey, Free Form found that on average, survivors needed $730 to manage their urgent safety needs. NYC is the most expensive city in the US and we as advocates know that the cost of safety is much higher here than in other places in the country.
It is vital that a survivor’s ability to access this funding is not tied to whether a survivor is 1) in shelter, 2) has dependents 3) is documented, or 4) has an open public assistance case. Nearly all of New York City’s direct cash assistance programs have had one or more of these restrictions, which has left many of the most vulnerable survivors unable to access support.
I have worked with survivors who have said that the small amount of money programs like Support Survivors provide could mean that they could move out of shelter and into a home or would not be forced to spend another night with their abusive partner or on the street or subway.
While the cost to the City to fully fund this program is $6 million, the cost to survivors who do not have access to direct cash assistance is often deadly. Survivor’s needs are often urgent and high stakes. Funding the Support Survivor microgrant program and ensuring that it quickly and efficiently implemented is crucial for survivor safety.