Lincoln County, Mo. - Just a few weeks after the people of Lincoln County reacted with shock and anger over Gov. Mike Parson’s veto of funding for a pilot program designed to fight child sex abuse in the area, there might be hope on the horizon.
On July 20, Parson announced $4 million in new grant opportunities to combat crimes against children and to provide additional funding to agencies that provide services to crime victims.
“The last two years have created hardships and strained resources across the nation, but the reported rise in crimes affecting children and the difficulties experienced by agencies that provide vital services to crime victims is most concerning,” Parson said. “These new grant programs will allow us to better investigate and prosecute criminals who victimize children and support domestic violence service agencies and child advocacy centers who serve our most vulnerable citizens and help bring criminals to justice.”
A total of $2 million in grant opportunities is being made available to assist local law enforcement and prosecutors to combat crimes against children, which rose in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. An additional $2 million in grant opportunities is being made available to support crime victim service agencies, which have reported increases in service referrals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The two competitive grants will utilize funds previously allocated to Missouri from the federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Program. The U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance has approved the reallocation of CESF program funds to meet emergent needs that were not apparent when the CESF opportunity was originally made available.
There is no local match required to access the funding. The Missouri Department of Public Safety will administer the grants.
The funding opportunity for the Crimes Against Children/Sex Crimes Grant is expected to open Aug. 1. Projects may include hiring additional staff to investigate, prosecute, and detect crimes against children.
The funding opportunity for the Victims of Crime Grant is expected to open Sept. 1. Projects may include providing resource assistance to domestic violence service agencies and child advocacy centers and aiding other entities serving victims from vulnerable populations adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
District 41 Rep. Randy Pietzman said, though Parson’s announcement means the agencies in Lincoln County may have to go through more red tape than necessary to get the funding they need, unlike his proposal, it’s better than nothing at this point.
“I’m thankful for anything we can get,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to get justice for these victims – and to prevent the next ones.”
Parson slashed $300,000 from the state’s $35 million budget last month that would have created Lincoln County’s sex offender pilot program. The money was to be used to hire additional investigators, a second prosecutor and more support staff to handle the growing number of sex offenders living in the county.
Pietzman said he would keep fighting for the children of Lincoln County.
“I’m going to continue to move forward to do as much as I can for the kids of Lincoln County,” he said. “My fights not over yet.
“I’m going to keep going.”