March 27, 2009

Crapo Budget Amendment Aims To Release Over $1 Billion To Victims Of Crime

VOCA monies released in committee-passed FY 2010 Budget Resolution

Washington, DC - In a voice vote during the FY 2010 Budget Resolution mark-up, the Senate Budget Committee unanimously approved an amendment by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo that would prevent Congress from shifting money away from victims of crime nationwide.

"For too many years, Congress has been robbing this fund of non-taxpayer dollars to pay for taxpayer-funded programs, not the intended recipients under the law-crime victims," said Crapo. "It is time to fix this oversight in the system that allows this practice to continue, and free up approximately $1.4 billion this year alone in aid to crime victims that has been held hostage by budget gimmicks. In these difficult economic times, statistics show that rates of victimization rise. Now is not the time for Congress to use this money as savings. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Victims of Crime Act. It is time for Congress to once again honor its codified commitment to victims of crime."

The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Reagan on October 12, 1984. VOCA serves as the central source of federal financial support for direct services to victims of crime, through a dedicated funding stream. The money for the Crime Victims Fund (the Fund) comes from fines, penalty assessments, bond forfeitures collected from convicted federal offenders and certain other collections are deposited; taxpayer dollars do not go into the Fund. The U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime annually awards grants to States, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories out of the Fund. Those state agencies, in turn, sub-grant to organizations that provide direct services to victims of crime.

In the mid to late 1990s, deposits sharply increased due to large fines levied on multinational corporations. In 2000, for the first time, a "cap" was imposed through the appropriations process in which a portion of the Fund's mandatory spending was delayed until the following year. This cap allows Congress to count the money above the cap as "savings" for budget purposes, which facilitates a shift of those funds on the balance sheet to other programs. Consequently, any attempt to raise the annual cap of this non-taxpayer funded program requires an offset in taxpayer dollars. Nationwide 4,200 agencies are supported by VOCA dollars every year. In recent years, victims of crime in Idaho have received close to $2 million annually to help fund direct victim compensation and programs that assist crime victims. According to the National Census of Domestic Violence Services, on one day in 2008, 60,799 adults and children sought support from local domestic violence programs. Due to lack of resources, there were 8,927 unmet requests for services. Victims of violence nationwide remain significantly underserved.

The amendment goes forward as part of the FY 2010 Senate Budget Resolution which will be debated in the full Senate during the week of March 30 - April 4. Visit Senator Crapo's Youtube site for clips from the Budget Hearing on March 26.