S 611 : VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021
Position: Support Status: Senate Judiciary Committee
The VOCA Fix Act passed the Senate unanimously! The Toomey amendment failed 60-40, and the VOCA fix is on its way to President Biden's desk for a signature.
Thank you so much to everyone for their help with this critical legislation! According to Rachel Graber of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, disbursement will probably take a year because the vote was very close to the end of the fiscal year and money hasn't had a chance to accrue to the VOCA Fund. In the long term, however, this fix is expected to stabilize the Fund and prevent future catastrophic cuts.
Both Oregon Senators Wyden and Merkley voted to support this bill. Thank you, Senators!
Deposits into the Crime Victims Fund have dropped dramatically in the last several years, leading to a substantial cut to the Victims Of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance grants. Victims services organizations are facing budget cuts, staff layoffs, and even program closures while demand for victim services is growing. It has been two-and-a-half months since the House overwhelmingly passed the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 to fix the problem. It is time for the Senate to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.
July 20, 2021: S 611 passes unanimously in the Senate March 4, 2021: Introduced by Sen. Durbin, Richard J. 63 cosponsors (40 D, 21 R, 2 I) Oregon Senator Wyden is a cosponsor of this bill.
S 611 adds a new source of revenue for the Crime Victims Fund and makes changes to formula grants supported by the fund.
Specifically, the bill directs revenues collected from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements to be deposited into the Crime Victims Fund. Currently, such revenues are deposited into the general fund of the Treasury.
Additionally, the bill increases the percentage—from 60% to 75%—of state compensation payments to crime victims in the prior fiscal year used to calculate formula grants for state victim compensation programs.
Finally, the bill directs states to waive the matching requirement for recipients of state victim assistance formula grants during and for one year after a pandemic-related national emergency. It also allows states to waive the matching requirement pursuant to a policy established by the state.
VOCA grants are the primary source of federal funding for thousands of victim service providers across the nation, including programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, and drunk driving. VOCA grants also fund victim compensation, which helps survivors pay medical bills, makes up for missed wages, and, in the most severe cases, helps pay for funeral costs. VOCA grants are not taxpayer-funded. Instead, they are paid for out of the Crime Victims Fund (“CVF” or “the Fund”), which comprises federal criminal monetary penalties. Every year, appropriators decide how much to release from the CVF. Most of the disbursement is distributed by the Office for Victims of Crime (“OVC”) via formula grant to victim service providers, with some of the disbursement also providing crucial additional funding to supplement state compensation programs.
In Fiscal Year 2020, the VOCA disbursement – and thus the funding available for victim service providers – decreased by 25%, and victim service providers have been told to expect further, potentially catastrophic cuts. Such cuts to programs that already struggle to serve every survivor who walks through their doors would mean that hundreds of thousands of Americans would be unable to access lifesaving services every year, programs would be forced to close, and tens of thousands of advocates could lose their jobs during a time of extremely high unemployment. This would also coincide with continued increased need, particularly for African-American communities that have been disproportionately impacted, for services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced state and local funding.