ANCHORAGE (AP) The executive director for a support group for crime victims said she's been told the agency won't receive funding next year.
Victims for Justice has been around for 18 years. But executive director Donna Garner said Wednesday the agency's existence is threatened because of state funding cuts.
Garner said she'd been told by Attorney General Gregg Renkes earlier in the day that her agency would not be funded next year. She said Victims for Justice expected to get about $246,000 from the state and without the funds the agency will be forced to close in 30 days.
The $246,000 provides almost all of the organization's operating funds.
Susan Parkes, deputy attorney general for the Criminal Division, said the Alaska Department of Law needs to find about $1 million to balance its budget for next year and is considering using some or all of the $246,000 to help do that.
But Parkes said no final decision has been made.
Victims for Justice employs three advocates and deals with about 900 clients a year, Garner said. No other agency in the state duplicates the range of free services provided by Victims for Justice, she said.
Victims for Justice was founded in 1985 by Janice Lienhart and Sharon Nahomey after their elderly parents and aunt were shot to death by Cordell Boyd, then 18, and Winona Fletcher, then 14, during a home invasion in Anchorage. The nonprofit's mission is to assist victims of violent crimes.
Garner said the agency does everything from helping a victim of an assault find a new pair of glasses if theirs had been smashed, to helping a family whose loved one has been murdered understand the court system.
''We're not legal advocates,'' Garner said. ''We support them in every other way.''
Stephen Branchflower, director of the Alaska Office of Victims' Rights, said his office does some of the things that VFJ does but not all.
For example, he said, if victims were having trouble getting information from the police department, the Alaska Office of Victims' Rights could help them obtain the information. His office could not, however, offer a client grief support as the VFJ could, he said.
The funds for Victims for Justice used to be allocated through the Alaska Department of Public Safety, Garner said; now the money is being distributed by the Department of Law.
Victims for Justice gets an additional $250,000 a year, roughly, in grants and donations, but the bulk of the money is earmarked for specific programs and cannot be used for operating costs, Garner said.
On Wednesday, she said she called a finance officer for the Department of Law and was told that the $246,000 had been used to cover rising medical insurance costs for employees of the department.
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