Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, traffickers continue to operate to ensure victims are not free to choose where they live, how they work, or who has access to their bodies.  Economic uncertainty, movement restrictions, lockdowns, and disruptions to state services have made the most vulnerable more vulnerable.  Traffickers are capitalizing on the chaos of the pandemic, finding ways to increase their exploitation.  As government and philanthropic efforts and resources are stretched to respond to the pandemic, financial support for anti-trafficking efforts is limited.  The TIP Office is dedicated to supporting efforts to combat human trafficking, taking into account the everyday challenges in combating human trafficking due to the impacts of COVID-19 and government measures to counter it.

On April 23, 2020, the TIP Office hosted a global webinar with TIP Office grantees to address concerns on the impacts of COVID-19 on trafficking in persons around the world.  The discussion addressed a myriad of topics including the impact of the virus on residential shelters, governments redirecting anti-trafficking resources to COVID-19 response, the impact of the economic downturn, the effects of border closures, and changes in the types of exploitation occurring with COVID-19 restrictions.  This initial webinar has led to continued discussions with current grantees to work on how to address the impacts of COVID-19 on human trafficking.

The TIP Office is working with current grantees and other anti-trafficking stakeholders in a number of ways to address the impacts of the virus on human trafficking. Below are just a few examples of how TIP Office project implementing partners are having an impact in their communities:

  • In the Balkans (Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro), Terres des Hommes is increasing the access to comprehensive services for victims of trafficking. Building on the efforts of this project, Terres des Hommes is providing essential food packages, housing/rent payments, health, family cash assistance support, clothes, and IT equipment to address economic and psycho-social needs during COVID-19.
  • In Zimbabwe, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is enhancing the Government of Zimbabwe and civil society efforts to coordinate anti-trafficking responses and protect victims of trafficking. Under this project, IOM is able to provide personal protective equipment to victims of trafficking and services providers.
  • Globally, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (BIICL) is analyzing the ability of national and international legal frameworks to respond to the changing nature of human trafficking and help identify solutions; and developing a strong evidence base on the impact of COVID-19 on anti-trafficking efforts and of the public health emergency as a determinant of anti-trafficking policies. To launch these efforts, BIICL convened a webinar in July 2020, link: https://www.biicl.org/projects/covid-19-impacts-on-efforts-to-combat-human-trafficking.

The TIP Office recognizes the pressures governments and civil society organizations are under to combat human trafficking and manage the impacts of COVID-19.  To continue efforts to address the needs of organizations to combat trafficking in persons, the TIP Office announced an Annual Program Statement to address the impacts of COVID-19 on efforts to combat human trafficking and support government measures to counter human trafficking.  Organizations interested in applying for funding under this initiative should review the information available on the TIP Office Website, the State Assistance Management System (SAMS Domestic), or grants.gov.

Organizations that have questions on the TIP Office’s response to address the impacts of COVID-19 on human trafficking or wishing to provide information on changes in the local context should email JTIPGrants@state.gov.


Sources of Information on COVID-19:

For the most up-to-date information and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, please visit:
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html 

The World Health Organization also has a website that includes travel guidance, technical guidance, and news on disease outbreaks, including COVID-19:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019 (link is external)

For the most up-to-date information from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration within the U.S. Department of Labor, please visit:
https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/novel_coronavirus/ 

For the most up-to-date information on overseas travel from the U.S. Department of State, please visit:
https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/ 

Redirecting Resources to Respond to COVID-19:

  • Implementing partners should not undertake any new work or change approved work plans without consulting their Program Officer(s) and Grants Officer(s) and receiving written authorization to do so.

Disruptions to Implementation:

  • If partners anticipate, or are experiencing, disruptions to the implementation of a TIP Office-funded program, whether because of health/safety issues, quarantine actions, travel restrictions, or logistical concerns (such as supply-chain interruptions), they should inform their PO(s), who will then consult with the cognizant GO(s) and provide guidance.
  • In the event any TIP Office implementing partner (whether under a cooperative agreement or grant) needs to modify or suspend the implementation of a previously agreed-to work plan, it must first notify its PO, who, in turn, will coordinate with the cognizant GO for approval.

Allowability of Costs Related to COVID-19:

  • The TIP Office understands that, as a result of the outbreak, some of our implementing partners might find themselves incurring additional implementation costs not originally envisioned, principally related to safety measures and the protection of staff.
  • The TIP Office will consider any additional proposed costs on a case-by-case basis, provided that such costs are “allowable, allocable, and reasonable.”

— To be allowable, costs must be allocable and reasonable:

• The standard for what is “reasonable”” is what a prudent person would do under the circumstances that were prevailing at the time the decision was made to incur the cost.  See Section 200.404 of Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

• GOs will consider all justifications for expenses:

– They will be particularly inclined to view as prudent, and thus reasonable and allowable, those expenses incurred based on U.S. Government actions or directives.

— At this time, reasonable costs in relation to safety measures are generally allowable.

  • The TIP Office recognizes that if the outbreak of COVID-19 results in staff being temporarily unable to report to work, it could be prudent to maintain readiness–that is, continue to incur operating costs–to be able to restart activities immediately if circumstances or instructions change.
  • Before incurring any additional costs relating to COVID-19, partners must contact their POR(s) and GO(s) for approval, when required:

— Please note that these costs are subject to audit.

  • All costs, including incurred costs, must not exceed the obligated amount of the award.

U.S. Department of State

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