Fiscal cliff fight could mean demise of Utah agency

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SALT LAKE CITY — The looming fiscal cliff has gained the attention of the national media recently. But with the eroding political climate, other agencies and programs funded by the government are caught in the crossfire, leaving them unsure of their future.

The Utah Coalition Against Sexual Assault (UCASA), which helps victims of sexual assault and promotes awareness of sexual abuse, is one of those in trouble.

The organization is almost completely reliant upon federal funding, so the partisan divide 2,000 miles away in Washington, D.C., could lead to its demise.

"The funds are no longer secure and allocated specifically for services for victims," said Alana Kindness, executive director of UCASA.

Utah currently receives more than $1 million a year to help victims of sexual assault through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The sunset period on its funding from the federal government will begin Dec. 6.

While an extension of the funding has been passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the two versions have very different language. It's now unclear if leaders of the political parties can agree to a compromise.

What is VAWA?
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) is a United States federal law signed by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994. The Act provided $1.6 billion toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, imposed automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allowed civil redress in cases prosecutors chose to leave unprosecuted. The Act also established the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice. Source: Wikipedia

UCASA is one of numerous programs facing its own fiscal cliff; and to make matters even more critical, without federal funding the organization has nowhere else to turn.

"We don't currently get any state funding for sexual assault services to adults, so we're completely reliant on our VAWA funding for that," Kindness said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch was one of the original sponsors of VAWA in 1994, along with Vice President Joe Biden. UCASA is hoping to convince those on Capitol Hill the funding is necessary and bring both parties together — but that's a tall task right now.


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Andrew Wittenberg


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