COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – A sexual assault support center in Columbus, The Center at 909, has lost $62,000 in state and federal funding, according to The Center at 909 Victim Advocate Abby Moorman. The cuts may make it impossible for the center to provide 24/7 support and provide certain services, both of which are required to keep the center state certified.

“We knew some kind of cut was coming, and it’s terrifying, really,” Moorman said. “We’re a very small organization. There’s only three full-time staff, and we have several part-time staff.”

“There’s Victims of Crime [Act] money called VOCA, and that’s a federal pass through the state of Georgia,” said The Center at 909 Executive Director Kyle Bair. “And that pot of money, which is collected from all kinds of crimes, has diminished because of the COVID period of time. And so, we have known for a while and have been lobbying all year to see if the State of Georgia would increase the line-item budget for service providers like us.”

Bair said The Center at 909 receives $231,000 from VOCA and $54,290 from the State of Georgia.

“How do you pay a person,” she said. “How do you pay your lease? How do you pay for all the client needs? How do I pay the power bill with $231,000 and $54,290?”

Bair said support centers like hers lobbied Georgia Governor Brian Kemp to give them money from the American Rescue Plan Act. As a result, the state is providing $50 million in ARPA funds to be divided among sexual assault centers, child advocacy centers, shelters, etc.

“$50 million is a lot of money, yes,” Bair said. “But that’s not going to begin to touch the cuts that we’re all experiencing.”

The Center at 909 mainly supports the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, which contains Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Talbot and Taylor Counties. However, Moorman said it doesn’t turn anyone away.

“But then, Alabama’s women’s center actually closed, and so we took over all of their counties, as well,” she said. “So Phenix City, Lee County, Russell County, Smith Station, I mean, everyone over there.”

Moorman said she hopes community members will contribute donations to make up for the cuts. They can do this online, either through the organization’s website or through Facebook fundraisers.

Last year, The Center at 909 helped about 365 new sexual assault survivors and over 600 families. Bair said that these numbers are more significant than they appear because many survivors return for additional services.

Above is a view of The Center at 909 from the parking lot.

“You try to work with that person every week or twice a month or four times a month or whatever for the entire year and tell me that’s not a lot of people,” she said.

The Center at 909’s free and confidential services include a 24-hour crisis hotline, medical advocacy and accompaniment, on-site medical forensic examinations, legal advocacy and referrals, therapy services, and more. For more information, visit https://www.thecenterat909.org.

The Center at 909 is not the only support center in Columbus that has lost funding from VOCA. Hope Harbour provides support for domestic violence survivors. Hope Harbour Executive Director Lindsey Reis said the organization has lost $250,000 from its VOCA grant. Reis says Hope Harbour plans to apply for more grants to make up for the loss.

For more information on Hope Harbour, visit https://www.hopeharbour.org.