Alaska Urges Congress to Adopt Measures to Expand Funding for Crime Victims
56 State and Territorial AGs Call for Increased Funding and More Flexibility
August 24, 2020
(Anchorage, AK) – The Alaska Attorney General’s Office today joined a coalition of state and territorial attorney general offices representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories urging Congress to adopt key changes to funding in the Victims of Crime Act that provides critical financial support to victims of violent crimes and their families.
The Crime Victims Fund, established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (“VOCA”), is the primary funding source for 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. The Fund covers the expenses of essential direct services and support for victims and survivors in the aftermath of crime, including medical care, mental health counseling, lost wages, courtroom advocacy and temporary housing.
Unfortunately the financial health of the Crime Victims Fund is at risk. In a letter to Congressional leaders of both the House and Senate, the attorneys general call on Congress to adopt changes to the Crime Victims Fund. In 2015, Congress increased the cap on distributions to the Fund, allowing 2.5 million more victims to receive support. According to the letter, while “deposits have sharply decreased in recent years due to a decline in the fines and penalties recouped from federal criminal cases, withdrawals have increased at a rapid pace.” The recommendations in the letter will stabilize the Fund’s finances and provide more flexibility to grantees who are providing services to victims and their families.
The coalition makes three recommendations to promote the sustainability of the Fund, and preserve access to programs and services:
- Redirect fines and fees from corporate deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the Fund: The Department of Justice increasingly uses deferred and non-prosecution agreements to resolve corporate misconduct. The AGs ask Congress to redirect these deposits to the Fund. In 2018 and 2019, recoveries resulting from these agreements were about $8 billion each year.
- Increase the rate of federal reimbursement to states for victim compensation programs: The Fund currently reimburses state programs that provide financial assistance to victims at a rate of 60 percent, the remainder usually being funded by fines and fees in state courts. The letter recommends Congress reimburse state programs at a rate of 75 percent.
- Extend the amount of time VOCA funds can be spent: VOCA requires recipients to spend grants within a four-year period. The coalition asks Congress to extend the period of funding so that state and local organizations can better plan and predict funding for long-term services.
The Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault (CDVSA) is Alaska’s recipient of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant. VOCA is a formula grant distributed to each state based on population. In FY21, Alaska received $9,944,303 in VOCA funding which was distributed to 25 community-based agencies across the state to serve and support victims of crime. This dollar amount equals 45% of the total grant funds distributed by CDVSA.
“Domestic violence and sexual assault occur at an unacceptably high rate in Alaska. Providing services to support victims is a key component to reducing those rates. The VOCA grant provides needed funds for services to support adult and child victims, to provide emergency shelter, advocacy, legal representation, counseling and compensation to victims of crime. We need more of these services, not less,” said John Skidmore, Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Alaska Department of Law.
CDVSA Executive Director L. Diane Casto says, “We are thankful for the support of the Alaska Attorney General and attorneys general across the country to encourage Congress to take necessary action to sustain and grow the Crime Victims Fund. This will ensure funding to support all victims of crime now and in the future.”
Joining Alaska in this Massachusetts and Montana-led letter are over 50 state and territorial attorneys general. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) played a key role in facilitating this letter.
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Department Media Contact:Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr at (907) 269-5285 or email@example.com.