Washington, D.C. — The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a bipartisan letter today signed by 56 state and territory attorneys general urging Congress to adopt key changes to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) that provide critical financial support to victims of violent crimes and their families. Specifically, America’s Attorneys General want Congress to amend VOCA to address the declining balance of the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund), which, without intervention, is expected to reach a ten-year low by the end of 2021.
The Fund is the main funding source for crime victim services in all 50 states and six U.S. 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. Initiatives covered by the Fund include services and support for victims and survivors in the aftermath of crime, such as medical care, mental health counseling, lost wages, courtroom advocacy and temporary housing. In addition, the Fund provides for victim specialists in FBI offices and the federal victim notification system. Deposits to the Fund have decreased in recent years due to a decline in fines and penalties recouped from federal criminal cases.
“As state Attorneys General, we are often the administrators of grant funding, through our state compensation programs or otherwise, financed directly from the Fund. In order to ensure the predictability and sustainability of these critical funds, change must be enacted to support our states’ ability to effectively serve victims and survivors of crime for years to come,” reads the letter signed by all 56 of America’s attorneys general.
The attorneys general proposed several amendments to VOCA to stabilize the Fund, including:
- Redirecting fines and fees from corporate deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the Fund.
- Increasing the rate of federal reimbursement to states for victim compensation programs.
- Extending the amount of time VOCA funds can be spent.
The letter concludes, “Your support of the Crime Victims Fund is paramount to our responsibility as Attorneys General to protect the interests of victims. As such, we defer to you on the best vehicle to introduce the above changes. We do ask, however, that Congress make them a key priority and act upon all three swiftly.”
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