The Victims of Crime Act Fund and Why It Matters to Safe Harbor
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund was created by Congress in 1984 to provide federal support to state and local programs that assist victims of crime. VOCA uses non-taxpayer money from the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) for programs that serve victims of crime. These funds, which are generated by fines paid by federal criminals, support services to over 6 million victims of all types of crimes annually, through 6,462 direct service organizations such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and child abuse treatment programs. Sustained VOCA funds are needed to respond to the dangerous lack of available services for victims.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) urges Congress to act quickly to save Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding by amending the law to deposit penalties and fines from non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements into the Crime Victims Fund (CVF). Recently, the VOCA funds released annually have begun to decline because of shrinking deposits in the CVF balance. The declines are due to prosecutorial strategies that have changed over the course of the last decade, and are not a partisan issue. When deposits into the CVF are reduced, the amount allocated to states for victim services is reduced. If VOCA is not sustained, victim service providers, including Safe Harbor, will lose critical funds that are vitally needed to continue our services.
NNEDV urges Congress to enact language, included in the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), to increase deposits to the CVF. You can learn more on NNEDV's website.
How You Can Help
We encourage all community members who believe in Safe Harbor's mission and vision to reach out to your Members of Congress, encouraging them to support a fix to VOCA funds. Please feel free to use the letter/email template below to reach out to your Senators and House Representative. If you are in South Carolina, here are direct links to contact Senator Tim Scott and Senator Lindsay Graham. If you live in the Greenville/Spartanburg area, here is a direct link to contact House Representative William Timmons. If you live in the Pickens/Anderson/Oconee area, here is a direct link to contact House Representative Jeff Duncan. Please follow up with a telephone call, reference the email and offer to send the information again. Your voice matters, and we are deeply grateful for your support.
Dear [Legislator’s name],
My name is [your name], and I am a constituent writing you from [your location].
Safe Harbor is an organization in my community that provides critical services to victims of domestic violence, offering safe shelter, advocacy, counseling and other supportive services to victims and survivors, as well as outreach and education services throughout Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee Counties in South Carolina. Last year alone, Safe Harbor provided emergency shelter to 670 people, answered 1,970 crisis calls, provided 6,871 hours of counseling, case management and advocacy to survivors of domestic violence living in our shelters and in our community-based programs, assisted 18 families in our transitional housing program, reached 5,577 students through our prevention program and spoke to 3,945 community members through our awareness programs. This year, Safe Harbor has faced additional challenges to the provision of services, working tirelessly to develop new methods of reaching and assisting victims during the pandemic.
Domestic violence organizations, like other community and criminal justice system service providers for programs serving survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, trafficking, drunk driving, homicide, and other crimes, rely heavily on Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants. VOCA also supplements state victim compensation funds. VOCA grants are not taxpayer-funded; instead, VOCA is funded by monetary penalties from federal criminal convictions. As the Department of Justice is entering into more deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, the money available for VOCA grants has dropped dramatically. As a result, grants for victim services were cut 25% last year, and victim service providers are facing further potentially catastrophic cuts in their VOCA grants in the coming year.
VOCA funds provide critical funding to Safe Harbor’s services, providing salary and benefits to many of our staff members who provide counseling, case management, advocacy, outreach, crisis line response and 24/7 services to survivors and their children in our three emergency shelters and community-based programs. The proposed additional 40% cut to VOCA funds would have catastrophic effects to Safe Harbor’s capacity to maintain and strengthen the essential services we provide to survivors in crisis every day.
For this reason, I urge House and Senate Appropriators to release as much as possible from the Crime Victims Fund in the FY21 Appropriations budget. In addition, I urge including a VOCA Fix in the Omnibus spending bill that seeks to put VOCA grants on a more sustainable path. This fix redirects monetary penalties from deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the VOCA fund and increase the federal government’s contribution to state victim compensation funds.
As a constituent and as someone who cares deeply about victims and survivors, I urge you to take immediate action in support of the solutions included in the letter above. Thank you for your time and consideration.
[Your contact information]