This week, a bipartisan group of senators and representatives introduced a bill, the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021, which is designed to prevent cuts to federal funding for victim services programs through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA). Today, we are asking you to contact your senators and representatives to ask them to support this legislation.
What Is VOCA?
VOCA provides a critical source of funding to organizations like Blackburn Center, who use these funds to provide direct services to victims of sexual and domestic violence and other types of crimes. VOCA funds are used to provide a range of services, including crisis hotlines, counseling, medical and legal accompaniment, and emergency shelters.
Funding for VOCA does not come from taxpayers. Instead, the Crime Victims Fund is financed by fines and penalties paid by people who are convicted of federal criminal offenses. In addition, gifts, donations, and bequests by private parties can be deposited into the Fund.
Why Is The VOCA Fix Necessary?
In recent years, the change in the way that many crimes are prosecuted has led to a sharp decrease in the compensation available in the Crime Victims Fund. Currently, only fines and penalties from criminal convictions go into the fund. As more cases are resolved by deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, the amount of money in the fund has dropped.
Federal grants to states to support victim services through VOCA decreased significantly over the past several years. Between 2018 and 2019, these grants dropped by 25%. From 2019 to 2020, these grants were slashed by an additional 35%. Further drastic cuts to VOCA funding is expected, as the non-taxpayer-funded pool from which these grants are pulled is running dry. Congress has the ability to fix this problem by making sure that financial penalties from federal deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements are used in the same way as penalties from convictions: to serve and compensate victims of crime.
In short, this bill will ensure that organizations that provide services to victims of crime — like Blackburn Center — will continue to receive sufficient funding to do so.
Who Supports This Bill?
This bill is nonpartisan. It was introduced by a group of Republican and Democratic members of the Senate and the House:
Senator Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Graham (R-SC)
Senator Baldwin (D-WI)
Senator Grassley (R-IA)
Senator Feinstein (D-CA)
Senator Cornyn (R-TX)
Senator Klobuchar (D-MN)
Senator Murkowski (R-AK)
Representative Nadler (D-NY-10)
Representative Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1)
Representative Jackson Lee (D-TX-18)
Representative Wagner (R-MO-2)
Representative Scanlon (D-PA-5)
Representative McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5)
Representative Dingell (D-MI-12)
Representative Moolenaar (R-MI-4)
Over 1,600 organizations and government agencies — including Blackburn Center and our statewide partners — have signed a letter urging Congress to pass this legislation.
What Can You Do?
We need your help to make sure that the VOCA Fix becomes law quickly. Please contact your Members of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor and support this legislation. Click here for a tool kit and script for contacting your senators and representative. You can also find contact information for your senators and representative, and message them directly.