During Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we must support victims and not turn our backs on people impacted by long-standing, pervasive public health epidemics – domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, and other forms of interpersonal violence. Victims of crime are facing potentially catastrophic cuts to funding for programs that serve them, and the Senate must take immediate action to protect grant funding for victim services by immediately passing S.611, the bipartisan, bicameral VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 (“the VOCA Fix Act”).
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants are the largest source of federal funding for victim service organizations. These grants are drawn from the Crime Victims Fund (“CVF” or “the Fund”), which comprises monetary penalties associated with federal criminal convictions; VOCA grants are NOT funded by taxpayers! They can be used to serve survivors of all crimes. VOCA also supports state victim compensation by matching 60% of states’ victim compensation funds.
The CVF is like a bank account with deposits and withdrawals. In the past, when deposits were high, Congress was able to withdraw money to fund victim service grants while also leaving some in its ‘savings account’ as a backstop for lean years. However, even the most robust ‘savings account’ will run out if more money is withdrawn regularly than is deposited. That is the situation in which we find ourselves. The balance in the ‘savings account’ has decreased by 70% since the end of 2017.
Deposits into the Fund are the lowest since they’ve been since the early 2000s, and Congress has had to pull from the Fund’s savings. But since they also will need to draw on these savings in future years, they have had to cut victim service grants to avoid emptying the CVF entirely. The effects of these cuts will be devastating to Family Services and the community we serve.
The historically low deposits into the CVF are, in large part, the result of DOJ’s prosecutorial decisions, particularly in white-collar criminal cases. Instead of prosecuting, they are entering into deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements. Monetary penalties associated with these agreements go into the General Treasury instead of the Crime Victims Fund. The underlying crime is the same, but survivors do not benefit from that money – more than $7 billion over the last three years and at least $2.5 billion since January 1 of this year.
The solution is simple: pass the VOCA Fix Act to change the law so that monetary penalties associated with deferred and non-prosecution agreements go into the Crime Victims Fund. It’s a common-sense solution that has broad bipartisan, bicameral support. And it can’t wait! Every day that goes by without this deposits fix is a day that crime victims and the programs that serve them are denied critical funding. The House of Representatives passed the VOCA Fix Act by a margin of 384 – 38, and it is time for the Senate to step up and follow suit.
Senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis: victims, survivors, victim service programs, and all of your constituents thank you for being their champions by co-sponsoring the VOCA Fix Act!!! Please continue to lead on this important issue by urging your colleagues to honor Crime Victims Awareness week by joining you as co-sponsors of the VOCA Fix Act. We need your help to avert the pending victim service catastrophe!
*More information about the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 in the form of a letter signed by more than 1,700 organizations and government agencies can be found at https://tinyurl.com/23drue5v.