VIDEO RELEASE: Following Shaheen’s Call on the Senate Floor, Senate Sends Bipartisan Legislation to Sustain Crime Victims Fund to President’s Desk
Shaheen calls for passage of the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act on the Senate floor. Her remarks can be viewed in full here.
(Washington, DC) – This afternoon on the Senate floor, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS), called on the Senate to overcome partisan politics and pass the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, legislation that would strengthen the Crime Victims Fund for the future. The legislation redirects monetary penalties from federal deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements into the CVF in order to provide continued support for state victim compensation and assistance programs. Through her leadership on the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee, Shaheen has historically fought to bolster resources for the CVF. Following Shaheen’s remarks, the Senate approved the measure unanimously, which now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
The CVF is administered by the Department of Justice and provides crime victims and their families with direct compensation for crime-related expenses, such as medical costs and funeral and burial expenses. States also receive CVF formula grant funds to make thousands of awards annually to public and private nonprofit organizations that provide assistance to victims, including counseling and health services and emergency shelter and transportation. The CVF is funded through federal criminal fines, penalties and special assessments. However, deposits into the fund are at a historic low, threatening its survival. This shortage has caused staffing and service cuts for thousands of victim service providers in New Hampshire and across the country that help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and sex trafficking. It is also impacting victim compensation programs, which will need to reduce services that assist victims with expenses like medical bills, counseling, funeral costs, and loss of wages during recovery if funds into the CVF are not stabilized.
During her remarks, Shaheen highlighted the importance of passing the VOCA Fix Act to ensure continued support for crime victims, and she urged Senators to vote against an amendment introduced by Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) that would prevent the CJS Appropriations Subcommittee from taking measures it has historically used to ensure the stability of the fund.
Shaheen’s remarks can be viewed in full here.
Shaheen highlighted calls she has received from individuals and groups across New Hampshire urging lawmakers to reject the Toomey amendment and pass a clean bill. “I’ve heard from individuals and organizations from across New Hampshire… like the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence and Granite State Children’s Alliance who both are beneficiaries of the Crime Victims Fund… This bill has already passed the House. If we pass this legislation today without amendment, it can be quickly signed into law and we can get these much needed changes to shore up collections into the fund so that the victims of crime can get the help that they need. It will make a meaningful impact to ensure there is adequate funding for survivors now and in years to come.”
Shaheen has led efforts to preserve the CVF. In March, Shaheen and U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) wrote a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland and urged his immediate review of the CVF given the dramatic decline in deposits into the Fund. Last month, Shaheen questioned the Attorney General on what the Justice Department was doing to prioritize deposits into the CVF.
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 in February, 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 American Rescue Plan, funding was included within the Department of Health and Human Services to help survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. In January, 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.