Missouri auditor finds issues with domestic violence funds
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Auditor Nicole Galloway said Monday that cities and counties skipped out on collecting an extra $698,000 in fees that could have gone to domestic violence shelters last year, part of a larger local funding problem for shelters that she said means fewer victims get help.
In announcing an audit released Monday, Galloway also raised concerns that state law doesn’t require municipalities to hand out money that’s earmarked for shelters, and she criticized redundant paperwork that makes it difficult for shelters to apply for local funding.
“My audit found that distribution of this funding for shelters is inefficient and uneven across Missouri, and that’s due in part to burdensome requirements in state law,” Galloway told reporters in her Capitol office. “Government red tape is holding up funding for shelters, and that means more victims of domestic violence are being turned away.”
The Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence reported about 28,000 requests for services were denied last year. The organization noted that those requests likely include duplicates from victims who asked for help at multiple shelters after being denied services.
The court filing fees that go to domestic violence services are optional under Missouri law, but Galloway said the extra money could help chip away at the number of victims denied help.
Local officials told auditors that they either did not know about the optional fees or did not collect them because there are no shelters in their county.
According to the audit, another 18 counties that collected fees did not distribute any money to shelters in 2017. Officials said they did not receive applications or said there’s no shelter in their county.
Galloway said designating a state agency to administer funds to local shelters could streamline the process, take the burden of review off local officials and better direct money to areas with the greatest need. That also would save shelters from filing redundant paperwork that they are already required to provide to the state, she said.
Three neighboring states — Arkansas, Kentucky and Tennessee — use a centralized model, according to the audit.
Galloway is calling on lawmakers to enact laws to address concerns raised in her audit. She said she has not yet spoken with specific lawmakers about drafting legislation, but will do so.