Shaheen Joins Bipartisan Effort to Increase Funding for Services that Help Victims of Violent Crimes
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined the introduction of bipartisan, bicameral legislation to strengthen the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) by fixing how the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) is funded. Led by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), this legislation 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. The legislation is endorsed by more than 1,680 national, regional, state, tribal and local organizations and government agencies.
“Survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking and other violent crimes are particularly vulnerable during this pandemic, and strengthening their access to victim support programs has never been more important,” said Shaheen. “Survivors in rural and remote areas have been especially hard-hit by slashed funding of the Crime Victims Fund, and we need to act now to fix funding and bolster their access to services. I’ll continue working across party lines to ensure our survivors have access to the vital services needed to stay safe and recover from these harrowing, traumatic experiences.”
“VOCA makes real change happen in survivors’ lives every day in New Hampshire. It ensures that victims have advocates in court, support at the hospital, facilitated support groups, emergency shelter and so much more. VOCA is the largest source of financial support for victim services in the Granite State, and the projected cuts would have a devastating impact on our state’s ability to provide life-saving services to victims, especially under a sustained state of emergency. We are so grateful for the efforts of Senator Shaheen and members of Congress to prioritize the needs of crime victims and advocate fiercely to ensure that these critical services won’t go unfunded,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs at the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. “This fix would not only address the overall drop in available funding through the Crime Victim’s Fund, but would ensure greater stability for states to continue responding to incidents of domestic and sexual violence. This legislation could not have come at a more crucial time, as victim service providers had already began to brace against the impending cuts. The last year has demonstrated that we still have an incredible amount of work to do in order to end all forms of abuse and violence, and this fix is a vital step towards achieving that goal.”
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. 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.
Through her leadership on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), Senator Shaheen is a leader in the Senate fighting for legislation and funding to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence. In the budget resolution passed last month, Shaheen successfully negotiated the inclusion of her amendment expressing support for organizations serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual violence and child abuse, which cleared the Senate unanimously. In the COVID relief package recently released, funding was included within the Department of Health and Human Services to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. Recently, Senator Shaheen and the New Hampshire delegation announced $8,427,680 in funding for New Hampshire organizations to provide emergency housing assistance to vulnerable individuals and those fleeing domestic and sexual violence. She also introduced the Lori Jackson Domestic Violence Survivor Protection Act, strongly-supported bicameral legislation to protect domestic violence survivors from gun violence. She repeatedly and successfully adds the highest funding amounts for Violence Against Women Act programs in government funding bills.
Senator Shaheen has also led efforts in the Senate to establish basic rights and protections for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Her bill, the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act, was signed into law in 2016 and created the first federally codified rights specifically for sexual assault survivors and for the first time allowed survivors the opportunity to enforce those rights in federal court. Shaheen also introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act to build on the Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act by incentivizing states to pass legislation that guarantees the survivors rights included in the federal legislation.