After Failed Grant Request, County Struggles to Support Victims of Violent Crimes

After more than 20 years of support, victims' rights in Kane County are struggling to find a leg to stand on. That’s because the local state attorney’s office was denied a grant request to fund three full-time advocates that would have provided services for victims of violent crimes.

But, even though the most recent grant request for $104,368 was denied, the Kane County State Attorney Joseph McMahon will not have to put public safety on the back burner. Several local agencies have stepped up to provide human resources and the power to keep the Victims' Rights Unit functioning until the attorney’s office can get the Illinois Justice Information Authority to reevaluate their grant proposal.

The state attorney’s office had always counted on a grant from ICJIA, which divvies up funds under the federal Victims of Crime Act administered through the U.S. Department of Justice. Over the course of two decades, the victim’s crime unit and its members had been recognized by state lawmakers for their service.

Until the grant funding is squared away, McMahon has assigned some responsibilities of the unit to prosecutors and support staff as well as advocates from police departments and other divisions in the county, such as the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists, the Community Crisis Center and Mutual Ground, a domestic violence shelter.

County governments in Illinois rely on different methods to fund their services for victims of violent crimes, domestic abuse and child neglect, and other programs. Some divisions apply for grants. Others draw money from the county's general fund. McMahon said his office was notified in December that the grant application for fiscal year 2018 had been rejected and, as a result, the matching contribution of $59,982 from Kane County as well.

Rejected grant proposals are more common than they are rare. Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said that many organizations, in their haste to secure funding, fail to follow instructions outlined in the request for proposals. Most funding sources provide specific instructions for presenting and submitting proposals. Grant applications that do not adhere to guidelines are typically the first to fall by the wayside. They are not even read – they are placed in the virtual trash bin.

"Another grave error in judgment (which may not specifically apply here) is when agencies become complacent and rely solely on one avenue of funding," said Hikind. "This places the agency staff and their constituents in constant and immediate jeopardy. Things change and an agency should never allow themselves to feel comfortable. Applications for grants that will provide funds for programs that assist victims of crime and abuse can be identified on GrantWatch."

Because an explanation is rarely communicated, the first step after a request has been denied should be to get on the phone and follow-up with an email to ask why. That’s why establishing a relationship – either over the phone or in a site visit — during the application process is a critical to securing funds at present or in the future.

Hikind invites the Kane County State Attorney to call her for assistance to create a YouHelp.com crowdfunding campaign until McMahon's office can complete the grant application process and receive funding. YouHelp.com was estblished to enable the community to step up-to-the-plate and chip in small amounts of money to keep needed programs operating.

McMahon said his office has already filed an appeal and is in the process of writing letters to each state lawmaker representing Kane county for assistance in identifying any new funds that could be targeted for the victims' unit. In the meantime, Kane County, the fifth largest in Illinois and home to 15 homicides last year, faces the reality of providing state-mandated services without grant funding.

Nonprofits, small businesses, entrepreneurs and concerned citizens frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants that provide social services including support for victims of violent crimes and domestic abuse can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

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