Conference negotiations result in first time fund protections are included in final budget agreement
Washington, D.C. -- Victims of crime will have better access to the funds intended for their just compensation next year under a provision offered by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo. Included in the final budget resolution being considered in the Senate today, the measure represents a key step in preventing lawmakers from using the Crime Victims Fund to inflate savings in the budget to make the federal balance sheet appear more favorable.
The Crime Victims Fund supports services to victims of crime through direct compensation and by funding child advocacy centers, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and other victim service groups. The Crime Victims Fund receives no taxpayer dollars; it is funded by fines and penalties collected from convicted criminals. The law requires that money in the Crime Victims Fund be used only to assist crime victims. Yet, for over a decade, billions of dollars have come into the fund, but not all of those dollars have been distributed to victims. Congress has made it a practice to withhold a portion of these funds, using them instead as a offset to mask additional spending on unrelated programs.
"For too long, Congress has used the Crime Victims Fund to offset the cost of unrelated government programs at the expense of victims," said Crapo. "The inclusion of this budget provision is an important first step in restoring the Fund to its intended purpose - to provide direct assistance and access to services for crime victims and their families."
The measure calls for an estimated $2.5 billion, roughly 10 percent more than the previous year, to be available to compensate victims of child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual assault and other crimes in the coming year.
Crapo noted the need for a long-term fix, saying "While this is not the full and permanent solution I had hoped for, it is forward progress and will provide much-needed additional resources to victims that would have otherwise been unavailable. I will continue to work with my colleagues to end this wrong-headed practice for good."
Congress created the Crime Victims Fund in 1984, based on the principle that fines and penalties the federal government collects from those who commit crime should be used to assist victims of crime. The Crime Victims Fund is funded solely by fines and penalties collected in criminal court and private donations. No taxpayer dollars are involved. Since Fiscal Year 2000, Congress has made it a practice to prevent nearly $10 billion from the Crime Victims Fund each year from being utilized for its intended purpose, instead, withholding hundreds of millions of dollars that, under federal law, are required to go to crime victims as a way to mask government spending excesses.
Crapo has led the effort in the Senate to ensure the Crime Victims Fund is utilized exclusively to assist victims. He first offered an amendment to protect the fund in 2009, which was also the last year Congress passed a budget resolution prior to this week.
Nationally, crime victims will have access to an estimated $2.5 billion, or two-and-a-half times the amount the President requested