Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Will Strengthen VOCA by Fixing How Crime Victims Fund is Funded, Increase State Funds for Victim Compensation and Assistance Programs
WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined his colleagues in introducing bipartisan, bicameral legislation to strengthen the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) by fixing how the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) is funded. Brown’s legislation, the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, will redirect monetary penalties from federal deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements into the CVF to increase funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs.
“We have an obligation to survivors and to help our communities recover from violent crimes, abuse, and other criminal activity,” said Brown. “But in order to do that, we need to make sure the Crimes Victims Fund is on solid ground. More funds for this critical program means more resources for survivors and the organizations that serve them.”
VOCA established the CVF, which provides grant funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. Grants are awarded to states, local governments, individuals, and other entities by the Justice Department’s Office for Victims of Crime. The CVF does not receive appropriated funding; instead, it receives most money through deposits from criminal fines. And as a result, deposits fluctuate annually based on cases that the Justice Department prosecutes.
Deposits into the CVF are historically low, and the decrease is due in large part to greater use of deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements. Monetary penalties associated with these prosecutions are currently deposited into the General Treasury, not the CVF.
Due to the rapidly diminishing balance in the CVF, victim services are already being slashed in states across the country, and some programs and services may see close to a 100 percent cut within two years if Congress does not act. Grant awards to states already decreased in both Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and FY2020, and victims in rural and smaller jurisdictions will be particularly impacted by the cuts.
The bipartisan, bicameral VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act would strengthen VOCA and preserve the CVF by amending how the CVF is funded. Critical changes in the bill include:
- Directing criminal settlements from Federal non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements, which are currently deposited into the General Treasury, into the CVF (known as the “deposits fix,” this change would be the most significant and could make an additional $4–$7 billion of non-taxpayer money available to the CVF over the next few years);
- Increasing the percentage that state compensation programs are reimbursed by the Federal government from 60 to 75 percent;
- Allowing states to apply for a no-cost extension for VOCA assistance grants;
- Giving states the ability to waive subgrantee match requirements for VOCA assistance grants; and
- Providing additional flexibility for state victim compensation programs to provide compensation for victims, even if they do not interact with law enforcement.
In addition to Brown, the bill was led by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The legislation is also sponsored by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Rob Portman (R-PA), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
The House companion legislation is being led by Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY-10), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18), Ann Wagner (R-MO-02), Mary Scanlon (D-PA-05), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-05), Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12), and John Moolenaar (R-MI-04).
The legislation has been widely endorsed from stakeholders, including in this support letter signed by more than 1,680 national, regional, state, tribal, and local organizations and government agencies.
Additional Background on Brown’s Efforts to Address Domestic Violence, and Support Survivors and Their children.
Brown voted to pass the American Rescue Plan, which will ramp up vaccine production and distribution to get all Americans vaccinated, and support all Ohioans through the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. The bill also includes vital funding for programs serving survivors, children and young people, and families in need. This includes $250 million for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) state grant program and $100 million for community based child abuse prevention programs.
Last week, Brown joined Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and his colleagues in a letter to leadership and appropriators requesting that future spending measures provide support for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse and the organizations that serve them. Brown urged his colleagues to prioritize funding for programs and grants authorized under the Violence Against Women Act and Victims of Child Abuse Act. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz led the letter in the House.
In February, Brown joined his colleagues in reintroducing the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act, which would provide $500 million in emergency funds for local child protective services and $1 billion for community-based child abuse prevention programs. The funds for these local child protective services and community based programs are flexible, and can be used to target populations that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including racial and ethnic minorities, children with disabilities, families experiencing domestic violence or homelessness, and LGBTQ youth.
Brown secured provisions from his Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act in the 2020 end-of the year-package, which provided funding for key child welfare programs working to support young people and families during the pandemic, including:
- $400 million for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to ensure young people have access to supports, such as housing, food, and cash assistance, and allow more of these funds to cover housing costs for foster youth
- $85 million for the Mary Lee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program to provide support services for families, kinship, foster, and adoptive parents, and young people. This includes $10 million for the Court Improvement Program to ensure dependency courts have resources to facilitate the transition to remote hearings, train judges, volunteers, and court personnel on the use of technology, and support innovative programs to help families continue to address case plan requirements
- $20 million for kinship navigator programs to ensure kinship caregivers have access to resources and direct assistance
- Increased funding for states to implement prevention services authorized in the Family First Prevention Services Act
- Protections to ensure young people in foster care do not “age-out” of care and are cut off from critical housing and support services during the public health emergency
Brown joined a bipartisan letter in April 2020 to Senate leadership requesting robust funding for Family Violence and Prevention Services Programs, which provides grants to states, territories, and tribes to support emergency shelter and supportive services for victims of domestic violence and their children.
And in March 2020, Brown joined 23 of his Senate colleagues in writing a letter expressing concern for the wellbeing of families who face an increased risk of domestic violence during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and urged the administration to ensure service providers have the flexibility and resources to help victims and survivors of domestic violence.
Brown fought to secure funding in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act for victims of domestic violence and service providers through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services Program, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or contact the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673. If you are in immediate danger, call 911.
To learn more about domestic violence and ways to prevent it, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.