This week, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) to amend the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) to sustain the Crime Victims Fund. The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act will redirect monetary penalties from federal deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements into the CVF to increase funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs.
"I applaud my colleagues for voting to preserve and strengthen the Crime Victims Fund,"
said Senator Tillis. "We owe it to every victim to make sure victim service providers in North Carolina and nationwide have the necessary resources to assist those in need. The VOCA Fix ensures essential funding for crime victim services programs, including Children Advocacy Centers in North Carolina. I look forward to President Biden signing this critical legislation into law."
VOCA established the CVF, which provides grant funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. Grants are awarded to states, local governments, individuals, and other entities by the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime. The CVF does not receive appropriated funding; instead, it receives money through deposits from criminal fines. As a result, deposits fluctuate annually based on cases that the Justice Department prosecutes.
Deposits into the CVF are historically low, and the decrease is due in large part to greater use of deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements. Monetary penalties associated with these prosecutions are currently deposited into the General Treasury, not the CVF.
Due to the rapidly diminishing balance in the CVF, victim services are already being slashed in states across the country, and some programs and services may see close to a 100 percent cut within two years if Congress does not act. Grant awards to states already decreased in both Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 and FY2020, and victims in rural and smaller jurisdictions will be particularly impacted by the cuts.
The bipartisan, bicameral VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act would strengthen VOCA and preserve the CVF by amending how the CVF is funded. Critical changes in the bill include:
- Directing criminal settlements from Federal non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements, which are currently deposited into the General Treasury, into the CVF (known as the "deposits fix," this change would be the most significant and could make an additional $4–$7 billion of non-taxpayer money available to the CVF over the next few years);
- Increasing the percentage that state compensation programs are reimbursed by the Federal government from 60 to 75 percent;
- Allowing states to apply for a no-cost extension for VOCA assistance grants;
- Giving states the ability to waive subgrantee match requirements for VOCA assistance grants; and
- Providing additional flexibility for state victim compensation programs to provide compensation for victims, even if they do not interact with law enforcement.