U.S. Democrats restore funding for sexual assault services after Greenwich Republicans strip money
On a party-line vote in March 2022, local Republicans voted against restoring $150,000 in federal America Rescue Plan (ARP) funds for the Greenwich YWCA to create the only sexual assault program that would be available to Greenwich residents. Now, U.S. Senate Democrats Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthaland U.S. Democratic Congressman Jim Himes managed to secure part of the funding for this program in the federal omnibus appropriations bill.
The Sexual Assault Services $150K proposal garnered the highest ranking from the committee established to review grant applications and was initially part of the Town’s $31.4 million ARP budget proposal. Without explanation, at the eleventh hour First Selectman Fred Camillo overrode the recommendation and removed the funding. In contrast, a museum with a gift shop and beautiful waterfront property received $100K to assist with their COVID-related financial losses.
Domestic violence is the most frequent violent crime in Greenwich, and sexual violence often goes hand in hand with it. Both sexual assault and domestic violence skyrocketed during COVID — for this reason programs addressing these issues fit squarely with criteria for ARP funding.
That made little sense to YWCA President and CEO Mary Lee Kiernan who said, “There is certainly enough funding available,” and reminded Camillo that $10 million from the $31 million Greenwich received in ARP funds was going to the town’s general fund and not being used for COVID relief. “The money is available, but you have chosen to redirect the funding and eliminate ARP money from sexual assault services,” she said, as reported by Greenwich Time.
Advocates tried once more to get the funding restored at a meeting of the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET). They were put last on the agenda (3.26.36 in the video). After sitting through nearly four hours of public comment on pickleball, historic-looking lighting and bumpouts, advocates were finally able to make their case, but to no avail.
On March 29, BET Republicans used their tie-breaking vote to deny Democrats’ motion to restore funding. It’s another example of why local elections matter — and why winning
the majority on the BET is crucial for Greenwich. Because Republican BET candidates got the most votes in the 2021 election, their control of the chairmanship gives them a tie-breaking vote.
Thankfully, our Democratic Senators Murphy and Blumenthal and Congressman Himes were there as a backstop. They announced in December that they had secured $100,000 in funding for the Greenwich YWCA to create a new program.
But we can’t rely on a federal rescue all the time. We need Democrats in office here too.
The restoration of part of the needed funding for a sexual assault program by our U.S. Senators is good news. But it is also a reminder that without a majority on the BET, Democrats were powerless to restore this important funding that was cut arbitrarily by the First Selectman. This is a potent reminder that local elections have very direct impacts on our lives.
Enjoying our weekly coverage of local news?
Happy with the historic electoral wins we made last year?
Want to help us keep it going?
Please consider contributing to the Greenwich Democrats monthly. Click here to sign up. Thank you!