People who experience domestic violence face many challenges to getting to a safe situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the crisis of domestic violence across the country, as public health officials urge people to stay at home, and we have seen an increase in the reported cases of domestic violence. The ongoing economic crisis also presents new obstacles for those experiencing domestic violence to find a place that is secure, and provide for their basic needs such as childcare, food, transportation, rent, and utilities.

At Commissioners Court on Tuesday, the Court approved allocating $2.18M to establish the COVID-19 Domestic Violence Assistance Fund, which will allow organizations already providing aid and services to survivors of domestic violence to fund additional services and financial assistance to cover survivor’s basic needs.

“We need to recognize that although home is the best place for people to avoid spreading COVID, it is not the safest place for everyone to be right now.”Commissioner Rodney Ellis.

“We must do all that we can to ensure that survivors of domestic violence can have the security they need during this pandemic and economic crisis to get into a safe situation. I’m particularly glad that the County is recognizing the importance of flexible financial assistance—especially for survivors and victims of domestic violence—to provide for the wide variety of basic needs they face,” Ellis said.

Barbie Brashear, Executive Director of the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, applauded the motion by Commissioners Court, noting that “the pandemic and current economic crisis have created the worst possible climate for help seeking.  We have greater need with a more stressed and exhausted resource base.” She stressed that women of color were more likely to be killed at the hands of an abusive partner, and said that the “ability to have flexible and creative funding will directly increase safety” for victims of domestic violence. She also singled out the efforts of Carvana Cloud from the Empowered Survivor Project, Dr. Conte Terrell, of Fresh Spirit, and Kathy Tatum of Collaborating Voices, for their efforts in working with survivors of color who are less likely to make their situations known to law enforcement, and said she looks forward to continuing to work with them to improve access to life saving resources to survivors of color.

We cannot afford to let anyone in Harris County fall through the cracks during this pandemic, and that includes those who deserve protection, care and support as a result of domestic violence.  -Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo

With this measure, Harris County is allocating $2,178,550 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund into the creation of the COVID-19 Domestic Violence Assistance Fund. This fund will be administered by the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, which will provide grants to member organizations. The funds will cover organizations’ costs for services for survivors and financial assistance to cover survivors’ basic needs, such as childcare, food, transportation, technology, rent, and utilities. Details about how the funds can be accessed will be made public as soon as they are available.