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Weekly Column: Securing Resources For Idaho Crime Victims

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Crime victims in Idaho and across our country deserve full access to resources after a traumatic experience.  Ensuring funds intended for helping crime victims recover are only used for that purpose is central to making progress in decreasing the impact of violent crime and supporting victims.  The U.S. Senate unanimously passed H.R. 1652, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021, or VOCA Fix Act.  The U.S. House of Representatives previously passed the bill by a vote of 384 to 38; shortly after, President Biden signed this needed legislation into law.  For decades, the Victims of Crime Act has provided critical funding to victims’ service organizations and direct compensation to victims of crime, including those in Idaho.  This new law ensures all fines, even those from non-prosecution agreements, go to help victims. 

I co-sponsored the Senate version of the measure (S. 611) along with a large, bipartisan group of 63 senators, including fellow U.S. Senator for Idaho Jim Risch.  I also voted in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) to the VOCA Fix Act that would go a step further in protecting the funds from being used for other budgetary purposes that cloud federal accounting.  Unfortunately, Senator Toomey’s amendment was not adopted.  While more must be done to ensure this fund is not subject to federal budgetary gimmicks, enactment of the VOCA Fix Act will help ensure the funds actually go to victims of crimes.

The Crime Victims Fund (CVF) was created in 1984 as part of VOCA to ensure survivors have the resources they need to take care of expenses related to the crime they suffered.  Expenses include medical bills, counseling, lost wages, funeral costs and more.  The CVF provides grants to states and local communities to establish crime victim programs that can get the funding to where it is needed most. 

The CVF is primarily financed by criminal fines, so funding fluctuates annually.  Deposits into the CVF are historically low due in large part to greater use of deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements.  In Idaho, federal VOCA funds for programs have dropped by around 65 percent since Fiscal Year 2018, according to the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence and Victim Assistance.  This has resulted in victims’ service providers in our state and across our country facing catastrophic cuts in their VOCA grants.   

The enacted VOCA Fix Act addresses these issues by directing revenues collected from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements to be deposited into the CVF, rather than the U.S. Treasury’s General Fund. 

Leading up to enactment of the VOCA Fix Act, I co-led bipartisan letters to Senate appropriators encouraging the use of the CVF exclusively for victims.  I have also been proud to serve as the Republican lead on numerous pieces of legislation to advance strong protections of victims of violence and abuse.  This includes the most recent Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization enacted in March 2013.  Although the program’s authorization lapsed in 2019, VAWA continues to provide grants to states, tribes, local governments, nonprofit organizations and universities to combat domestic violence.

Victims’ service providers, teachers, first responders, foster families, medical care providers, court advocates and many others working to protect and help children and others who are victims of violence, especially in Idaho deserve praise.  They are bringing healing and hope to many throughout Idaho and deserve steady support.  Enactment of the VOCA Fix Act is progress in ensuring every dollar collected for crime victims is used to help them rather than used to fund other projects unrelated to crime victims’ services.

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