GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Leaders of children’s advocacy centers throughout Michigan breathed a sigh of relief Friday when they learned they would not lose more than half their federal funding.
They had been told late last week their federal funding, expected to be around $12.5 million, was being cut to about $6 million. Then on Friday afternoon, an about-face: the feds told the state to expect the full $12 million and perhaps more.
The cuts would have affected some 10,000 young sexual abuse victims and their families. The centers support children who suffer abuse and then have to go over it again and again with police and prosecutors trying to get them justice.
“Sexual abuse can not only greatly and devastatingly impact that child, but it can really disrupt an entire family unit,” Melissa Werkman, president and CEO of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Kent County, said.
Werkman said the anticipated cut of 54% — some $322,000 — would have meant the CAC of Kent County would not have been able to hire staff to expand to reach children in rural areas and longer waitlists. And it would have been a last-minute loss — the money typically comes through in October.
“The timing is the largest issue and frankly, that it was surprise to us,” Werkman said.
The money comes through the Federal Victims Crime Act, which is funded through restitution collected from large corporations who break the law.
“So for instance, large companies, like Volkswagen several years ago when they were penalized for misrepresentation, that money is put into a pool and it is redistributed for crime victims,” Werkman explained.
The cash goes to the states. In Michigan, the state Department of Health and Human Services grants it to CACs.
“Of course, we have other funding like individual contributions and some foundation grants, but it’s a significant part of our budget,” Werkman said.
Word that the money would still be coming was the change of fortune Werkman had been hoping for.
“It has been really wonderful to see the outpouring of support we have from our lawmakers, from our state agencies that really, truly recognize that we (would) be in a critical situation if we don’t find a solution,” Werkman said.
It’s unclear why the federal government cut the money in the first place and why it was restored.