The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that will strengthen and protect critical grant funding for victim services.
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants are the largest source of federal funding for programs providing services for victims. These grants are also the only source of federal funding for victim compensation programs, which can help victims pay medical bills or cover lost wages.
Deposits into the VOCA grants, which are funded by monetary penalties associated with federal criminal convictions, are at historic lows due to an increasing number of deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements. Monetary penalties from these types of agreements are deposited into the General Treasury instead of the Crime Victims Fund (CVF), which distributes VOCA grants. As deposits into the CVF have dropped, damaging cuts have been made in grants to victim service providers.
The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act would require the Department of Justice to deposit all monetary penalties, including from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, into the CVF.
Additionally, the bill would
- Increase the percentage that state compensation programs are reimbursed by the federal government from 60 to 75 percent;
- Allow states to request a no-cost extension for VOCA assistance grants, as allowed for other Department of Justice formula grant programs;
- Give states the ability to waive subgrantee match requirements for VOCA assistance grants; and
- Provide additional flexibility for state victim compensation programs to provide compensation for victims, even if they do not interact with law enforcement.
Following House passage, the legislation will move to the Senate for consideration, where a companion bill has been introduced by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) with bipartisan support.
The CSG Justice Center receives VOCA funding to help state victim compensation programs increase the number of victims approved for benefits, as well as operate the Restitution Resource Center, in partnership with the National Crime Victim Law Institute, which helps states improve their ability to effectively order, collect, disburse, and fulfill restitution sentences.
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