CAPSEA faces major budget cut

The budget proposed by the state House of Representatives would cut 10 percent of critical funding for services to victims of abuse and rape, forcing nonprofit organizations like CAPSEA, Inc. [Citizens Against Physical, Sexual & Emotional Abuse] to make serious cutbacks, according to CAPSEA Executive Director Billie Jo Weyant.CAPSEA also provides legal assistance for people living in poverty to address such needs as home foreclosures, disability benefits, and homeless assistance.According to Weyant this cut would revert the organization back to its 1998 budget level.“We have suffered cuts on the federal and state budget for over nine years now and we can't take any more. We are surviving bare bones here,” Weyant said. CAPSEA operates on a budget of about $500,000 a year and provides services to Elk and Cameron counties.“It is very hard,” Weyant said. “We have a dedicated staff, a board of directors, but you can only stretch a person so thin. We need funding, we need resources to make sure our doors stay open. The folks in our community are wonderful, they give and give, but our legislators need to give.“All we are asking for is to be funded at the same level we were last year - no increase.”Weyant noted that inflation was at 1.55 percent in 1998 and is at 3.2 percent today.“We don't get much anyway, but if they cut us, we are going to be cut in our two programs in Elk and Cameron counties, alone we will be losing over $20,000 per program and that's devastating,” she said.According to Weyant, in 1998, CAPSEA had enough funding to provide 23 women and children with 273 emergency shelter days. Seventy-nine individuals received rental and utility assistance, 547 victims of domestic and sexual violence received 1,011 hours of counseling, and 53 prevention programs were provided to 1,437 individuals in Elk and Cameron counties. In 2010, the organization provided 51 women and children with 538 days of emergency shelter, 256 individuals received rental and utility assistance, 1,120 victims of domestic and sexual violence received 3,321 hours of counseling and 159 prevention programs were provided to 4,310 individuals in Elk and Cameron counties."From 1998 through 2010, we have seen a 50 percent increase in the number of victims who have contacted our agency for help," Weyant said. CAPSEA is one of 59 other community-based programs across Pennsylvania that run crisis hotlines and provide emergency shelter, counseling, legal representation, medical advocacy, support groups, children's services, and other assistance for victims of abuse."Only 32 percent of our funding comes from state and federal sources," Weyant said. "In addition to serving victims in crisis, we must raise the remaining 68 percent of our operating costs from community sources with fundraising, donations, local funding, and so on."