WASHINGTON — Since shepherding through the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, Joseph R. Biden Jr. has made combating domestic violence a central part of his political and policy work.
After becoming president, he created a Gender Policy Council with a senior White House adviser focused on gender violence, and his American Rescue Plan provides $49 million in aid and hundreds of millions of dollars in housing assistance to victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking.
Survivors and their advocates hope that he will fulfill the many campaign pledges he made to fight domestic abuse, including a plan to provide $5 billion in cash grants directly to people suffering at the hands of abusers.
Here is how he has addressed the issue throughout his career.
As a Senator
As a Democratic senator from Delaware, Mr. Biden initially assumed that the women’s movement had compelled more women to come forward about violent crimes, leading to an increase in reported data about such crimes, he said in his memoir, “Promises to Keep.” But soon he came to believe that violence against women was in fact “a cultural expectation” that most people shared, meaning “millions of women were at risk of being beaten in their own homes.”
He assigned a staff adviser, Victoria Nourse, to research the issue full time, and her work underpinned the draft legislation for the Violence Against Women Act, known as VAWA. When it passed in 1994, it funded violence prevention and housing assistance programs, created privacy protection for victims and ensured that restraining orders would be enforced anywhere in the country. Most important, it made the federal government responsible for fighting domestic violence.
He called VAWA “my proudest legislative accomplishment,” in an op-ed written in 2014 to mark the law’s 20th anniversary.
As Vice President
Shortly after becoming vice president, Mr. Biden created the position of White House adviser on violence against women to guide the president and vice president on issues of domestic abuse and sexual assault, and to coordinate the federal government’s efforts to combat it.
“The worst imprisonment in the whole world is to be imprisoned in your own home,” Mr. Biden said in 2009 when he announced the first adviser for the post, Lynn Rosenthal. His remarks underscored the overlooked reality that abused people are often isolated from loved ones, cut off from financial support and in other ways trapped.
He also helped create a White House task force dedicated to reducing dating violence among teenagers and young adults, who face relatively high rates of such abuse.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Biden pledged to expand the social safety net for survivors of abuse; do more to stem online harassment, abuse and stalking; protect immigrants who experience abuse; and address the role that guns play in domestic abuse.
The stimulus payments would be $1,400 for most recipients. Those who are eligible would also receive an identical payment for each of their children. To qualify for the full $1,400, a single person would need an adjusted gross income of $75,000 or below. For heads of household, adjusted gross income would need to be $112,500 or below, and for married couples filing jointly that number would need to be $150,000 or below. To be eligible for a payment, a person must have a Social Security number. Read more.
Buying insurance through the government program known as COBRA would temporarily become a lot cheaper. COBRA, for the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, generally lets someone who loses a job buy coverage via the former employer. But it’s expensive: Under normal circumstances, a person may have to pay at least 102 percent of the cost of the premium. Under the relief bill, the government would pay the entire COBRA premium from April 1 through Sept. 30. A person who qualified for new, employer-based health insurance someplace else before Sept. 30 would lose eligibility for the no-cost coverage. And someone who left a job voluntarily would not be eligible, either. Read more
This credit, which helps working families offset the cost of care for children under 13 and other dependents, would be significantly expanded for a single year. More people would be eligible, and many recipients would get a bigger break. The bill would also make the credit fully refundable, which means you could collect the money as a refund even if your tax bill was zero. “That will be helpful to people at the lower end” of the income scale, said Mark Luscombe, principal federal tax analyst at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting. Read more.
There would be a big one for people who already have debt. You wouldn’t have to pay income taxes on forgiven debt if you qualify for loan forgiveness or cancellation — for example, if you’ve been in an income-driven repayment plan for the requisite number of years, if your school defrauded you or if Congress or the president wipes away $10,000 of debt for large numbers of people. This would be the case for debt forgiven between Jan. 1, 2021, and the end of 2025. Read more.
The bill would provide billions of dollars in rental and utility assistance to people who are struggling and in danger of being evicted from their homes. About $27 billion would go toward emergency rental assistance. The vast majority of it would replenish the so-called Coronavirus Relief Fund, created by the CARES Act and distributed through state, local and tribal governments, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. That’s on top of the $25 billion in assistance provided by the relief package passed in December. To receive financial assistance — which could be used for rent, utilities and other housing expenses — households would have to meet several conditions. Household income could not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability, and individuals would have to qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship (directly or indirectly) because of the pandemic. Assistance could be provided for up to 18 months, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Lower-income families that have been unemployed for three months or more would be given priority for assistance. Read more.
Whether he is able to fulfill those commitments during his time in office remains to be seen, but groups that help survivors were heartened that Mr. Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package included millions of dollars to address the issue.
Mr. Biden appointed a senior White House adviser to focus on gender violence as part of his newly formed Gender Policy Council, so named to recognize that abuse broadly affects people of all sexes and gender identities.
“This should not be a Democratic or Republican issue,” Mr. Biden said on Wednesday, after the House reauthorized VAWA. “It’s a matter of justice and compassion.”