Yesterday, the U.S. Senate passed the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021, bipartisan legislation introduced by Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that supports vital victim service programs by preventing future cuts to already diminished federal victim service grants. The House version of the bill, introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), passed the House by a vote of 384-38. It now heads to the president’s desk for his signature.
The legislation has been widely endorsed by stakeholders. In March, several organizations, including the CSG Justice Center, sent a letter of support to congressional leaders.
“Counseling, emergency housing, compensation, and other victim programs are critical components of a crime victim’s recovery process, but states are anticipating massive cuts to federal funding that helps them meet these needs,” noted Megan Quattlebaum, director of the CSG Justice Center. “I want to thank Congress for passing this important legislation that will sustain investments in victims and the lifesaving services they need.”
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 Crime Victims Fund. In addition, the bill will do the following:
- Allow states to request a no-cost extension from the attorney general, as with other Department of Justice formula grant programs, to ensure that states can thoughtfully and effectively distribute victim service grants without being penalized.
- Require state VOCA administrators to waive the 20 percent match requirement for victim service subgrantees for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis and one additional year.
- Allow state VOCA administrators to waive subgrantee match requirements at their discretion after the aforementioned waiver expires and require state VOCA administrators to develop and publish a policy and procedure for obtaining a waiver.
- Instruct the Office for Victims of Crime not to deduct restitution payments recovered by state victim compensation funds when calculating victim compensation awards.
- Provide flexibility for state compensation programs to waive the requirement to promote victim cooperation with law enforcement if a good cause is established by the program.
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 (RRC), in partnership with the National Crime Victim Law Institute. The RRC helps states improve their ability to effectively order, collect, disburse, and fulfill restitution sentences.