9-11 Funding Changes Hurt Local Charities

Many East Texas Agencies have had trouble making ends meet this year. The Federal Government took money from victims services to pay compensation to the families of the September 11th terrorist attacks. That has left budget shortfalls in many local charities which help victims of crime right here in East Texas.

Susan Hawkins is a supervisor for CASA of East Texas. She works with dozens of volunteers like Mitzi Sterritt who fight in court for the rights of abused children. But, Susan and Mitzi alone can't take care of every Smith County child in need.

CASA's Executive Director, Reggi Durch says, "Because of lack of funding, we can't hire any more supervisors. So, we're maxed out as far as how many children we can serve."

Durch says her agency's federal funds were cut by as much as $45,000 since last year. Instead of going to abused and neglected East Texas kids, Congress gave that money to the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C.

"Because of what happened on 9-11, our children are going to do without services. They're going to do without a volunteer, an advocate, who fights for their needs."

27 new names were added to the Wall of Memories in Smith County. All of them were killed in violent crimes. The District Attorney's Office does provide many services for their families, but the budget was cut after 9-11 as well. They lost at least $10,000 in federal dollars. Betty Whitten heads up the victim's services for the D.A.

"We don't have expenses for supplies. We don't have expenses for our printing we need for our booklet. We don't have expenses for travel and training."

Back at CASA, Mitzi and Susan go over case after case of abused children in need. But, if the federal funding shortfall is not made up somewhere else, they may have to choose one case over the other.

The change in the federal funds from victim's services to victim's compensation was made specifically for the victims of 9-11. Congress, so far, has not reversed the funding back for next year's budget.