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Federal funding cuts could affect local agencies that deal with crime victims

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Toys in the playroom at The Child Center in Hannibal. Toys in the playroom at The Child Center in Hannibal.
HANNIBAL, Mo. (WGEM) -

Tri-State crime victims could soon be turned away when they need help. That's because the local agencies that serve them stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in government funding.

The Child Center in Hannibal works with abused children across northeast Missouri. Staff say the need is growing, and they need to expand services, but sudden cuts could halt those plans. They also aren't the only local agency affected.

Shandi Joubert-Kanz works with children who have been victims of abuse, and she says with an increase in cases, the center planned to expand services and staff. 

"Right now, we are the only place in the area, 10-14 counties between three offices, that provides the services that we do," Joubert-Kanz said.

They get a portion of funding from grants through VOCA, the Victims of Crime Act, a fund that comes from fines paid by those convicted of federal crimes. Earlier this year, Missouri got more than $37 million in VOCA funding, four times the amount in 2014. Now, that money could be on hold. Congress and President Obama agreed to a budget deal that shifted $1.5 billion out of the VOCA fund.

"The potential exists that if they do that budget cut, even that small number that we're getting, we wouldn't have anymore," Joubert-Kanz said. "That could impact the amount of services that we can provide." 

The cuts aren't only affecting the Child Center. 

"They are saying that they're going to cut it by a billion dollars," Judy Edmondson, executive director of Avenues Domestic Violence Shelter said. "The reality of it is that there are billions of dollars in the VOCA reserves right now. Does that affect us? Absolutely."

Avenues is the only domestic violence shelter in Northeast Missouri, and officials rely on VOCA for most of the budget. After news of increased funding, they applied for double the amount they did last year, hoping to grow the shelter and the number of beds they can provide.

"By federal law, they're not supposed to take those funds out and use it for anything other than services for crime victims," Edmondson said. "I anticipate that there will be some legal maneuvering to try and get that funding restored."

Both the Child Center and Avenues hope the cuts will only be for the extra amount they were promised. If that's the case, daily operations would continue, but, they would not be able to meet the needs of new clients, as they had planned.

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