(INDIANAPOLIS) – Attorney General Curtis Hill today urged Congress to adopt key changes to the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) that would provide essential financial support to victims of violent crimes and their families. He joined all other U.S. attorneys general in a letter to congressional leaders advocating for the changes.
The Crime Victims Fund, which was established by VOCA, is the primary funding source for victim services in the nation’s 50 states and six territories. Deposits to the fund originate from criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties and special assessments collected by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, federal courts and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The fund covers the expenses of crucial direct services and support for victims and survivors in the aftermath of crime, including medical care, mental health counseling, lost wages, courtroom advocacy and temporary housing.
Unfortunately, the financial health of the fund is in jeopardy. In 2015, Congress increased the cap on distributions to the fund, allowing 2.5 million more victims to receive support. But, according to the letter, while “deposits have sharply decreased in recent years due to a decline in the fines and penalties recouped from federal criminal cases, withdrawals have increased at a rapid pace.”
In the letter, the attorneys general call on Congress to adopt changes to the fund that would stabilize its finances and provide more flexibility to grantees who provide services to victims and their families.
“Without action from our elected leaders, the balance of the Crime Victims Fund is projected to reach a 10-year low by next year,” Attorney General Hill said. “Now is the time for Congress to enact bipartisan changes that would replenish the health of the fund and reaffirm our commitment to supporting victims of violent crimes.”
The attorneys general make three recommendations to promote the sustainability of the fund and to preserve access to programs and services:
- Redirect fines and fees from corporate deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the Fund: The Department of Justice increasingly uses deferred and non-prosecution agreements to resolve corporate misconduct. The attorneys general ask Congress to redirect these deposits to the fund. About $8 billion was recovered in both 2018 and 2019 as a result of these agreements.
- Increase the rate of federal reimbursement to states for victim compensation programs: The Crime Victims Fund currently reimburses state programs that provide financial assistance to victims at a rate of 60%, the remainder usually being funded by fines and fees in state courts. The letter recommends Congress reimburse state programs at a rate of 75%.
- Extend the amount of time during which VOCA funds can be spent: VOCA requires recipients to spend grants within a four-year period. The attorneys general have asked Congress to extend the period of funding so that state and local organizations can better plan and predict funding for long-term services.
The letter to congressional leaders is attached.