Witnesses to and victims of crime will continue to have the County’s support after Supervisors agreed to accept a large grant from the State.

The District Attorney’s Office applied for the $634,900 grant from the California Office of Emergency Services, to pay the bills at the County’s Christopher G. Money Victim Witness Assistance Center.

The grant will cover from Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021 and will completely offset the salary and benefits of the “mass victimization advocate” a position within the County OES department that coordinates all the agencies and organizations that would be needed to help people during a major disaster, such as earthquake, tsunami, wildfire and nuclear disaster, among other tragedies.

The grant requires a local match that the D.A.’s Office said they would fulfill with interns “who volunteer hours by providing administrative support. Cash matches will be met through already budgeted expenditures including salaries of victim advocates, office supplies, and training.”

Some $534,000 of the grant has already been budgeted. The deadline for the grant program was pushed up from fall to summer, which explains why the D.A. asked for permission to apply for the grant in the same agenda item that Supervisors were asked to accept the award.

The necessary budget change will come back to Supervisors after the State budget is finalized and the award is confirmed by Cal OES.

The D.A’s Office has been in charge of victim-witness services since 1977, according to a staff report. The County’s Victim-Witness program was moved into the Courtroom Annex and in 2017 was re-Christened, the “Christopher G. Money Victim Witness Assistance Center;” named after the late-Judge Christopher Money, who gave some 40 years of service to the citizens of SLO County.

Money was a prosecutor for 15 years before being elected District Attorney in 1978 and re-elected in 1982. He was appointed a muni court judge in 1985 and promoted to Superior Court in 1989, where he served until he retired.

In 1977, while an assistant D.A., Judge Money helped create the Victim-Witness Assistance Center and helped establish the Women’s Shelter Program and the County’s Sexual Assault Response Team Program. He also headed up the County’s first Drug Court in 1999.

The County has been using these State grants to fund its victim-witness program since 1984.

The Center’s purpose is “reducing the effects of crime on victims, family members, and the community; increasing the efficiency of the criminal justice response to crime victims and witnesses; and preparing the Victim Witness Assistance Center for a coordinated community response to mass victimization and terrorism incidents.”

Though the Center is currently closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic response, if readers need their help, they can call, (805) 781-5800.