To support the success and sustainability of your collaboration, new sources of funding may be necessary. There are a number of potential opportunities to consider from federal funding through the U.S. Departments of Justice or Labor to local funding from foundations focused on workforce development or economic security.  

While funding opportunities frequently change, there are some opportunities, such as those funded by statute through the federal government, that are more stable. In this chapter, we will highlight key sources of funding and funders that regularly support efforts to improve employment opportunities and economic security for vulnerable populations.  

Federal and State  

A key place to start for exploring opportunities to support workforce development programs is through the Department of Labor’s Employment Training and Administration. Employment services and related programming in the United States are primarily funded by the Deoartment of Labor under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I, which targets unemployed and under-employed workers, youth, adults with barriers to employment, and workers seeking a career change or advancement.1 The WIOA Adult and Youth programs fund services for people with barriers to employment such as housing insecurity, difficulty accessing safe and affordable childcare, or past involvement with the criminal justice system.

While the U.S. Department of Labor does not explicitly fund services directed only to survivors of human trafficking, survivors of human trafficking are eligible for such services.2  WIOA programs also aim to create meaningful access to supportive services via referrals to culturally-responsive mental health counseling, medical care, and legal services so that survivors may successfully engage in employment programs.  

Funding through WIOA is awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor to individual state or territory workforce agencies, and then to local Workforce Development Boards. Every state and local area has a Workforce Develop Board (WDB); local areas may be counties, cities, or larger regions of a state. WDBs develop strategic plans that focus on local high-growth industries and set funding and training priorities for their area. They facilitate partnerships between local businesses and job training providers.

Another option for funding is under grant programs providing support to victims of human trafficking and other crimes. The U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime funds services for survivors of human trafficking including “economic and leadership empowerment and/or education.” This encompasses vocational/skills training, financial counseling, job readiness assistance, education programs, and assistance with educational and professional certifications, as well as related services. Similarly, under the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, transitional housing grantees funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women, are able to use grant funds to provide services to survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence to “secure employment, including obtaining employment counseling, occupational training, job retention counseling, and counseling concerning re-entry in to the workforce.”3 For more information on funding opportunities available through the Office for Victims of Crime, visit: https://www.ojp.gov/funding/explore/overview

The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) funding allocations differ from state to state or jurisdiction. Certain allowable services through VOCA include “Multi-system, interagency, multidisciplinary response to crime victim needs”4 amongst other programming. Grantees who provide education or vocational services may also be able to use VOCA funds to purchase laptops or other technology for the use of clients enrolling in educational programming.5 Note that administration of VOCA funds and eligible expenses vary state to state. To learn more about allowable activities using VOCA funding, visit VOCApedia.  

As more programs look to develop entrepreneurship opportunities for survivors, funders who support community economic development may also be appropriate sources of funding. The Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have grant programs that support local economic development programs.  

The Small Business Administration can also provide microloans of up to $50,000 to nonprofits or other community-based organizations to cover start up and expansion costs in addition to offering training and technical assistance for entrepreneurships and small business. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Division of Community Economic Development (CED) houses a grant program to address the economic needs of vulnerable communities by funding the creation of sustainable business and employment opportunities. While this funding is not for individuals, it can support social enterprise development opportunities and incubators for local entrepreneurship development. 

Through the Microenterprise Development (MED) program, HHS also funds programs that support the development of small businesses targeting refugees, asylees, and foreign-born victims of human trafficking so that they may gain financial independence for themselves and their families.  

National and Local Foundations 

Finally, foundations are also a good funding source for collaborations. Target foundations that have missions to promote economic development, economic opportunities, and employment for marginalized communities. Foundations typically support activities at a local level, making collaborative models particularly attractive. Below is a short list of organizations that have historically funded economic empowerment-type programming:  

These are just a few options to get started, and the list is not exhaustive. Collaboration partners may have additional resources and financial support available that can be leveraged to support the project.  

We hope this information proves useful in establishing and sustaining a partnership to support greater economic opportunities and pathways for survivors. If you have questions, comments, or needs for technical assistance, please contact the Promoting Employment Opportunities for Survivors of Trafficking (PEOST) team at peost@futureswithoutviolence.org.   


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[1] Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, 113–128 Pub.L. (2014). https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wioa

[2] Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 9-12, https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/corr_doc.cfm?docn=9779

[3] Office on Violence Against Women. (2018). 2018 Biennial Report to Congress on the Effectiveness of Grant Programs Under the Violence Against Women Act. Office of Violence Against Women. https://www.vawamei.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/TH.pdf

[4] Office for Victims of Crime. “VOCApedia | Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Administrators.” Accessed August 6, 2021. https://ovc.ojp.gov/program/victims-crime-act-voca-administrators/vocapedia.

[5] See 28 C.F.R. 94.119(b) (allowing personal advocacy and emotional support, including the management of practical problems created by the victimization). Subrecipient may use VOCA funds for technology to facilitate access to victim services; see 28 C.F.R. 94.120(e) (technology) and 28 C.F.R. 94.121(e) (equipment) and (f) (supplies).


This project is supported by Grant No. 2017-VT-BX-K001 awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed on this site or in any materials on this site, are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime.