WINCHESTER — The Laurel Center is reeling from the loss of a $610,000 federal grant earlier this year.
Faith Power, executive director of the nonprofit that provides emergency shelter and support for victims of domestic and sexual violence in the Northern Shenandoah Valley, told Winchester’s Public Health and Safety Committee on Wednesday that the city’s financial assistance is urgently needed to help make up for the crippling funding loss.
“We need some help,” Power said.
In June, The Laurel Center in downtown Winchester was informed that its 24-month allocation from the U.S. Justice Department’s Crime Victims Fund (CVF) had been reduced by $610,000. That equates to a $305,000 funding loss for each of the next two fiscal years and represents a nearly 12% reduction in the center’s annual operating budget of $2.6 million.
Power said the immediate effect was that The Laurel Center had to shut down its satellite office in Warren County and eliminate four-and-a-half full-time positions. Meanwhile, the demand for the center’s services is higher than ever, with incidents of domestic violence increasing by more than 8% during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are extremely short-staffed,” Power told the committee.
Nearly 45% of The Laurel Center’s clients live in Winchester, she said, and the Winchester Police Department uses the nonprofit as an emergency resource for victims of domestic violence, but the city government does not provide any funding for its operations. Instead, Power said 70% of The Laurel Center’s financial support comes from state and federal grants and almost all of the remaining 30% is provided by donors and private foundations.
The Laurel Center also services Frederick, Clarke and Warren counties. Power said Frederick County allocates $6,000 per year and Clarke County contributes $3,000 per year for the center’s operational expenses. Warren County, like Winchester, contributes nothing.
Public Health and Safety Committee member Evan Clark asked if there are any COVID-related grants available that could help The Laurel Center make up for its $610,000 shortfall.
“We’ve applied for everything we can,” Power replied.
In order to keep providing services to local residents, Power is asking the city to allocate money to the center. In particular, she asked City Manager Dan Hoffman if some of Winchester’s $12,337,682 appropriation from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) could be signed over to The Laurel Center.
Hoffman said a portion of the ARPA money will be awarded to local nonprofits on a competitive basis over the next two years, but the maximum award would be $100,000.
Power’s presentation was an information-only item on the committee’s agenda, and no committee member made a motion to allocate city funds to the nonprofit.
For more information about The Laurel Center, visit thelaurelcenter.org.
Attending Wednesday evening’s Public Health and Safety Committee meeting in Rouss City Hall were Chairwoman Kim Herbstritt and members Les Veach and Evan Clark.