State Auditor Nicole Galloway has released a report finding domestic violence victims are being turned away from Missouri shelters at a higher rate than the five neighboring states that provided information to her office. The audit says in 2017, 28,182 requests were unmet for shelter and other services in Missouri.

Missouri State Auditor Nicole Galloway (D)
(2017 file photo)

Galloway’s audit points to domestic violence shelter funding being burdened by state law requirements – leading to an inefficient and uneven distribution of funding across Missouri.

“Victims of domestic violence shouldn’t be turned away because red tape is holding up shelter funding,” Galloway says in a press release. “Unfortunately, that’s happening in Missouri. A simplified and consolidated process – made possible by changes in the law – would cut down on the paperwork at the local level and make it easier to distribute funds to the shelters.”

To receive funding collected by a city or county, domestic violence shelters are required to show to local officials that they meet a list of legal qualifications and also file an annual report with that local authority. Galloway says the requirements for information burden shelters, duplicating paperwork already filed with the Department of Social Services and other state agencies in order to receive state and federal grant funding.

State law also does not require local authorities collecting domestic violence fees to give the funds or set a limit on the amount they can retain, in order to assure funds are being used to help Missourians in need. Galloway says there were 18 counties that did not distribute domestic violence fees in 2017. Those counties made up 2,679 domestic violence reports last year. She says lawmakers could require local authorities to distribute funds at least once a year.

Galloway says no state agencies are charged with oversight of domestic violence shelter funding, leading her office to gather the report information by working with local governments and the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse.

The decentralized manner that Missouri uses in handing out domestic violence fees means that funds may not necessarily be applied where there is a demand for services. The centralized model used by at least three surrounding states – Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee – allows fees to be more strategically distributed based on need, the auditor says. She goes on to say that a centralized registration and reporting system for shelters also would enable more consistent reporting and better oversight of domestic violence funds.

“The odds that survivors of domestic violence receive the help they need in Missouri should not depend on which counties they live,” Galloway says. “Lawmakers can streamline the process of getting money to the shelters.”

A copy of the report on domestic violence shelter funding is here.

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