VAWA is Unauthorized -- Now What?

What does VAWA’s unauthorized status mean?

Authorization is different from appropriations:

●     Authorization created the laws and legislators can change or add to the laws each time it is reauthorized. Regardless of VAWA being unauthorized, the law of the land stays intact. Authorization occurs every 5 years.

●     Appropriations allows the government to spend money and outlines what money can be spent on. Appropriations occurs every year.

While VAWA’s status is currently unauthorized, this does not impact its funding for the 2019 fiscal year since money has already been appropriated for the fiscal year. Congress can continue to appropriate funds for a law even if it’s unauthorized.

The reauthorization process allows us to improve and expand services. We can accept some delay in reauthorizing VAWA to ensure the resulting bill improves investments in prevention and includes enhancements to better meet the identified needs of victims and survivors.

What are the implications for ...

●     the law?

As with other laws, only the VAWA grant program authorizations expire -- the underlying law and all the provisions that are not tied to specific funding levels do not expire. All legal protections for victims and survivors continue, including protections in federally-subsidized housing, special tribal jurisdiction, and protections for immigrant victims. Grant conditions that protect survivor confidentiality and safety remain intact.

●     the definition of domestic violence?

A recent article suggesting that the Trump Administration changed the definition of domestic violence is creating some panic in the field. The law did not change; no Administration has that power. The only thing that changed was the definition listed on a website, which does not change the legal definition nor definitions for grant funding.

●     funding for programs and agencies?

VAWA programs and services are funded for 2019 in several already-passed appropriations bills (including Labor, Health, and Human Services) and have been funded in the continuing resolutions funding Department of Justice programs.


What are some advocacy strategies we can use at the local level to ensure a modestly enhanced version of VAWA passes?

The NTF relies on you and other advocates to support out work in Washington, DC by answering our call to rally when the time is right. We will be in contact as the process plays out with periodic updates and calls to activate. Be sure to engage with NTF action alerts when they arrive and take action by calling or writing to your Representative and Senators. Visit the NTF’s webpage on VAWA, where you can find helpful resources.

In the meantime, advocacy at the district level is the most effective way to connect with your Members of Congress. Plan on district advocacy when your Members of Congress are home during the 3rd week of March and the 3rd and 4th weeks of April. Meet with them in your home district and tell them it’s important to pass VAWA, that uncertainty about VAWA’s future harms survivors and advocates, and even though fiscal year 2019 funding is in place, keeping VAWA unauthorized is not a good message to send to survivors.

If you’re looking for district advocacy resources, visit

If all of your Members of Congress already support VAWA, thank and recognize them -- publicly acknowledge by thanking them at your next organization’s event, giving them an award, thanking them in an op-ed, etc. You can also collect stories about how VAWA has helped and highlight gaps that could be improved.