Yost Calls on Federal Government to Stop Cuts to VOCA During 2024 Two Days in May Conference

 

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – May 14, 2024 –  Addressing nearly 1,000 victim advocates at the office’s annual Two Days in May conference, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost today called on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to reverse the 41% cut to federal funding for the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA).

“I’m angry about it and we’re fighting back,” Yost said addressing conference attendees, “You all have taken more than your share of the belt-tightening. This is absolutely atrocious.”

As the state administrator for VOCA, Yost sent a letter to Garland calling out the dramatic drop in funds that have occurred since Yost was elected in 2018, at which point Ohio was funded at $117 million. With the announcement of the additional 41% drop, Ohio would be funded at just $26 million, a 78% cut overall.

“I want you to know we’re going to do everything we can,” Yost continued. “I know that victims advocacy and services have been cut to the bone. My only request of the federal government is you seem to be able to find money to fund every other thing under the sun—do this.”

VOCA is the primary source of funding for victim services in Ohio, including for many of the agencies attending the 32nd annual two-day conference, who in his letter, Yost addressed as the “oxygen that keeps crime-fighting victim service agencies alive.”

Two Days in May brings together advocates and others from various disciplines to discuss best practices, trends and developments in the field of victim assistance.

The event’s awards ceremony is one of many highlights of the annual two-day conference, presented by the office’s Crime Victim Services Section, at which AG Yost also encouraged the attendees to spend their time at the conference practicing self-care.

“Use these two days as a reset,” he said. “Take time to celebrate the victories and joys you have had such a crucial hand in. Remember all the lives you have changed, and re-center yourself for all the folks you have yet to encounter who will also come to lean on you.”

This year’s TDIM conference also featured a presentation Monday from keynote speaker Kellie Portman of the National Organization for Victim Advocacy; a plenary session this morning centered on a decades-old cold case that ultimately yielded justice; 31 workshops spanning five breakout sessions over both days; and more.

During the awards luncheon this afternoon, Yost recognized some exceptional advocacy work being done in Ohio. The 2024 conference award winners, which are based on peer nominations, are:

Promising Practice Award: Providence House Crisis Nursery in Cleveland

Providence House, a pioneering crisis nursery in Ohio since 1981, has supported more than 15,000 children and families in the Cleveland area by providing free, voluntary emergency shelter to children up to age 12, focusing on stabilizing families in crisis. Despite mainly serving trauma-affected and impoverished families, the nursery’s team achieves an impressive 99% reunification rate over five years. Initially founded for infants with prenatal drug exposure, the organization expanded its mission under the guidance of Sister Hope Greener. Through innovative expansions – including Leo’s House and Elisabeth’s House – the nursery continues to meet growing demands. With its most recent addition – Hope’s House – Providence House has become the largest residential crisis nursery in the country. The nursery has now twice been awarded the Ohio Attorney General’s Promising Practice Award, affirming its dedication to family preservation.

Robert Denton Special Achievement Award: Jill Donnenwirth, The Domestic Violence Shelter in Richland County

Jill Donnenwirth’s 27-year tenure at The Domestic Violence Shelter has been marked by creativity, innovation and a deep understanding of survivors’ needs. Her impact is evident in the stories of those she has helped, including a woman who credits Jill with saving her life by empowering her to leave an abusive marriage, and a mother of five who found stability and happiness with Donnenwirth’s support. Jill’s holistic approach addresses both immediate needs and long-term recovery, going above and beyond by providing transportation and advocacy in legal matters. She has also established youth programs, support groups and awareness initiatives, demonstrating proactive dedication to combating domestic violence. Jill’ peers acknowledge her immeasurable contributions, recognizing her with the Robert Denton Special Achievement Award for her unwavering commitment to serving survivors.

Special Courage Award: Alexis Kidd Zaffer, Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses in Cincinnati

Kidd Zaffer’s journey to leadership at Seven Hills Neighborhood Houses began during her college years with AmeriCorps. When she became the organization’s interim leader in 2012, the nonprofit was deep in debt. Undaunted, she forged ahead, bringing it back from the brink and stabilizing it financially to ensure its survival. Seven Hills, which has served Cincinnati’s West End since the 1940s, has been crucial in providing emergency aid and trauma support to people facing socioeconomic struggles. As permanent executive director since 2015, Kidd Zaffer has advocated against gentrification and is now looking to expand the trauma recovery center. Fueled by her love for the West End, her resilience and commitment have ensured that Seven Hills continues to serve the community.

Attorney General Yost’s full opening remarks from the conference are available here.
Video of AG Yost’s VOCA remarks, and still photos of the event are available upon request by emailing: Kelly.May@OhioAGO.gov.  

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