HANNIBAL — AVENUES, an agency that serves victims of domestic violence in 11 Northeast Missouri counties, found out Wednesday that funds from the state dating back to July had finally been released and an emergency grant from the United Way of the Mark Twain Area will not be needed.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re out of the woods, but it’s a big help,” said Tamitha Ague, director of AVENUES of Northeast Missouri, Inc.
On Tuesday the local United Way board agreed to provide $17,281.42 to AVENUES so that the agency could meet payroll. July and August invoices from the state for more than $90,000 were still outstanding at that time. But on Wednesday part of that money was released by the state, and Ague alerted the United Way that the emergency grant would not be needed.
Ague said the funding crisis is averted for now, but the agency continues to face challenges.
“Due to COVID-19, financial reimbursement delays from the state and (with) general financial donations down, AVENUES has depleted our main agency bank account funds over the course of the last few months,” Ague told the United Way Board.
State Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Frankford, had not received any calls about the delayed state payments but knows that revenues have been affected by the pandemic.
“We’ve got a special session coming up and we haven’t got all the information yet, but it’s going to be about deciding how spend the dollars and how they’re allocated,” Hansen said.
“The state’s revenue was way down, but I think it’s coming back. I do think that next year they’re really going to face some challenges and have a tough time figuring out the budget,” Hansen said.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has called a special session for Nov. 10. Hansen said lawmakers will be asked to decide how some federal funds that the state already has will be allocated, as well as making decisions on some grant money that is yet to come.
Even with the AVENUES bank account replenished, Ague will be seeking other grants and donor support. She also hopes the agency can catch its breath.
“I came on staff March 9. COVID hit on March 16,” Ague said.
The Monroe City native describes her first eight months as “a whirlwind” of challenges and growth.
Due to concerns about coronavirus, the agency had to upgrade its technology. Ague said most of the interactions had been face-to-face before the pandemic. New technology has been added so that clients can get information via video or other online resources.
“A lot of the courthouses have gone to remote video” hearings that also use the new technology, Ague said.
Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd, presiding judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit, said the agency is doing vital work.
“The AVENUES organization assists domestic violence victims in completing applications for orders of protection, finding shelter, and communicating with the courts, police departments, and other agencies. Currently, no other local agency provides this range of services to victims of domestic violence,” Shepherd said.
AVENUES also has expanded its territory. The 41-year-old agency has long served Clark, Knox, Lewis, Marion, Monroe, Pike, Ralls and Shelby counties. In August it started serving Adair, Schuyler and Scotland counties.
Due to grant requirements, AVENUES needed to add staff – going from a payroll of 11 up to 18. And the added staff has been needed to meet greater demand for services.
“We’ve seen a huge uptick in the need for services in some places,” Ague said. “One of our people in outreach services said that in (her two counties) there was an increase of 100 clients just between Oct. 1 and Oct. 16.”
AVENUES operates a domestic violence shelter in Hannibal and offers help finding some clients housing in their home communities where needed. Due to the addition of Adair County in the service area, AVENUES is looking for a shelter in Kirksville. Outreach services help clients in other counties.
AVENUES also is preparing to launch its annual donation campaign. The state grants $40,000 in tax credits as an incentive for donors. Anyone who donates more than $100 to AVENUES will get an income tax credit.