In Connecticut, couples pay a $10 surcharge when they take out a marriage license. According to state law, funds from the surcharge are to be used to help pay for badly needed domestic violence and sexual assault programs. But more than $1 million is accumulating in an account at the state Department of Social Services and is not being spent for the surcharge's intended purpose.
What's going on?
"To have funds just sitting in an account while domestic violence victims cannot access services due to inadequate staffing at our programs is irresponsible of the state," says Erika Tindill, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
In Connecticut, there are 18 domestic violence programs that provide a wide array of services, including 24-hour hotline support, emergency shelter, support groups, counseling and assistance with the legal system. These services receive funding from several sources, including the federal government, but the marriage license surcharge funding stream is critical.
This is not general fund money. Its allocation doesn't depend on the passage of a state budget. It can be compared with the funding for Legal Aid services, which in large part comes from interest on money held in escrow for people buying homes.
We can't imagine why DSS is pooling this money in an account when the services it would pay for are so critically needed.
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