WASHINGTON – U.S.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee
today joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of colleagues to introduce critical
legislation to strengthen the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) which Grassley
cosponsored years ago. This legislation, led by U.S. Sen. Majority Whip Dick
Durbin (D-IL), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, ensures that
additional funds collected from criminal defendants would be attributed to the
Crime Victims Fund (CVF). Specifically, it amends VOCA to ensure that
monetary penalties collected by the U.S. Department of Justice, under federal
deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, will go into the CVF,
increasing funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. The Senate
bill is also cosponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tammy Baldwin
(D-Wis.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Amy Klobuchar
(D-Minn.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
about the sustainability of the CVF last year as deposits
from criminal penalties and fines have decreased.
“For decades, the Crime Victims Fund has provided
essential support to Americans across the country – all without spending a dime
of taxpayer dollars. However, decreased deposits to the fund from criminal
fines and penalties threaten the long-term viability of the fund. I raised
concerns about this issue last year. This bipartisan bill addresses funding
stream issues to ensure that these resources continue to be available to
victims well into the future,” Grassley
“Due to the rapidly diminishing balance in the Crime
Victims Fund, 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. In particular, victims in rural and smaller jurisdictions
will be impacted by the cuts if Congress does not act. This bipartisan,
bicameral legislation to strengthen the Victims of Crime Act will allow many
victims a chance to recover and rebuild their lives,” Durbin said.
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
most money through deposits from criminal fines. As a result, deposits
fluctuate annually based on cases that the Justice Department prosecutes.
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.
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. In Illinois, VOCA victim assistance grant awards went from nearly
$129 million in FY2018 to $63 million in FY2020. Illinois is estimated to
receive only $27 million in FY2021—a 79 percent reduction from FY2018.
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.
“The fix in our bill keeps the Fund sustainable and
ensures that survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, human
trafficking and other crimes continue to receive the vital services they need
both directly and through victim support programs. I am proud to be part of
this overdue and much-needed change in policy,” Graham said.
“The Crime Victims Fund ensures that states can
provide compensation and assistance to innocent victims of crimes. This
lifeline for so many is rapidly running out of funds and we must take action to
replenish it, so folks can continue accessing these critical resources. I’m proud to have identified a new revenue
source for the Crime Victims Fund – directing funds from deferred and
non-prosecution agreements be deposited into the Fund. This innovative solution
uses no new taxpayer dollars, and I’m glad to see it incorporated into our
bipartisan reform to ensure that victims continue to receive the services and
assistance they deserve,” Baldwin said.
“Programs that help victims of crime are severely
underfunded due to declining deposits. The necessity for resources has grown
worse during the pandemic with the rise in domestic violence. Our bill helps restore this urgently needed
funding to ensure that anyone harmed by a crime will receive help recovering,” Feinstein
“For years these programs have brought justice to
survivors and victims’ families as they recover from trauma, and we must ensure
this funding remains available. I
am proud to join my colleagues to protect this program and remain committed to
helping victims in Texas and across the nation get the support they need to rebuild
their lives,” Cornyn said.
“As a former prosecutor, I’ve seen firsthand the
importance of ensuring crime victims across the country – including in our
rural communities – have access to the resources they need to get back on their
feet. This bipartisan legislation will make
necessary changes to the Crime Victims Fund to save critical services and
programs that help people rebuild their lives,” Klobuchar said.
“This legislation makes substantial improvements to
the Victim of Crimes Act and addresses the continuation of decreasing dollars
being deposited into the Crimes Victims Fund, which has become unsustainable. I
am proud to have worked on a bipartisan solution which will ensure that the
VOCA account has the resources necessary to provide vital services for victims
and survivors. Providing this
fix for VOCA funds will allow the state of Alaska to continue to meet the
immediate needs of survivors. I continue to be concerned that the COVID-19
crisis has led to an increase in cases of domestic violence, sexual assault,
and child abuse throughout the state. Moving forward, we must continue to
strengthen VOCA programs’ abilities to serve survivors and their communities,” Murkowski said.
Senate cosponsors include Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Sheldon
Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Thom Tillis
(R-N.C.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii),
Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.),
Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Brian
Schatz (D-Hawaii), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).
House companion legislation is being led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold
Nadler (D-N.Y.-10) and representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.-01), Sheila
Jackson Lee (D-Texas-18), Ann Wagner (R-Mo.-02), Mary Scanlon (D-Penn.-05),
Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.-05), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.-12), and John
“The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act
ensures that programs and services assisting victims of crime are fully funded
and better supported. The need for this legislation cannot be understated, as
deposits into the Crime Victims Fund have continued to decline, a problem only
worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of the bipartisan and bicameral
collaboration that has made this piece of legislation possible, and I am
hopeful that it will be signed into law,” Nadler said.
legislation has been widely endorsed from stakeholders, including in this
signed by more than 1,680 national, regional, state, tribal, and local
organizations and government agencies.