CEASE, Inc. has laid off 18 employees and could have to reduce staff further due to losing federal grant money, officials said this week.
But, Donna Kelly, executive director for the organization, said its board is working to try and restore the funding.
“CEASE isn’t going anywhere,” Kelly said. “We just have to get through this bump in the road.”
CEASE acts as a support agency for domestic and sexual assault victims in a six-county area. Those counties include Hamblen, Claiborne, Union, Grainger, Hancock and Hawkins. The organization also operates two shelters for victims in Hamblen and Claiborne counties.
Kelly said Friday the employees laid off included mainly those in the outreach programming. She said there are still 11 employees left to operate the two shelters.
“We’re on a skeleton staff,” she said.
Kelly said CEASE found out Thursday they may be losing the VOCA or Victims of Crime Act grant, which brings in more than $1 million annually for the organization.
After learning about the possible funding stoppage, CEASE decided to conduct the layoffs.
She said there is a possibility more employees could be laid off next week.
Besides the shelters, the organization also provides a 24-hour hotline for victims, a sexual assault response team and counseling.
She said the 24-hour hotline would still be available.
In the meantime, Kelly said she is confident the funding will be restored shortly.
“We have numerous grants and local sources of support for our program. CEASE board of directors and leadership are working diligently to make sure that our program will continue to serve our communities for a long time to come,” CEASE said in a release. “We have shifted our focus to caring for the survivors in our shelters and fulfilling all current commitments during this holiday season.
“We will be taking the next couple of weeks to do some restructuring and figuring our how to move forward without this particular grant. Our top priority, as always is to provide Safety to survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Our hotline is operating 24 hours a day, we have dedicated staff and awesome volunteers lining up to meet all survivor needs in both of our primary counties, Hamblen and Claiborne.
“We appreciate the concern shown by our parter agencies and community members as well as your continued support. If you would like to help us during this time you can contact the office at 423-581-7029 for volunteer opportunities.”