2015 VOCA Funding!

On Tuesday, December 16, 2014, President Obama signed into law the "Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015." This bill raises the VOCA cap from $745 million to $2.361 billion, an increase of 3.5 times. This is an unprecedented increase in the VOCA cap and is greatly needed to help victims of all types of crimes. The bill now goes to President Obama who has indicated he supports this bill.

Under the VOCA statutory allocation formula, the bulk of this increase will be used for state VOCA victim assistance subgrants, with a large increase also for the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) discretionary grants. This presents both a significant opportunity and challenge to state VOCA assistance administrators and local victim assistance program managers to make the most effective and efficient use of these funds. An important question remains whether this increase in VOCA funding will be a one-time "windfall" or a "new normal" VOCa funding level.

Such a large increase in funding also means much greater scrutiny, accountability and transparency in the use of these funds by OVC, state VOCA assistance administrators and local service providers. Appropriators added $10 million for the Justice Department's Inspector General to monitor and audit the increase in VOCA assistance subgrants. OVC is required to submit a report within 45 days to the Appropriations on its increased oversight, including a requirement that grant recipients certify their 501(c)(30 status and make financial statements publicly available online.

It will take some time before these funds are actually made available. In addition to OVC's 45 day report, the Department of Justice needs to send the Committees a plan for spending for VOCA and all other DOJ programs. A major potential issue will be the amount of the new Crime Victims Fund cap that the Office of Justice Programs will retain for its management and administrative (M&A) costs. Over the past several years, OJP has assessed about 8% of the VOCA cap for OJP M&A. In light of this much higher cap, it is unknown at this time how much of the Fund will be diverted for OJP M&A.


NAVAA Congratulates Congress on Increased VOCA cap

NAVAA released the following statement regarding the increase in the VOCA cap as part of the FY 15 appropriations bill:

We congratulate Congress on taking an unprecedented, positive step in meeting the critical needs of our nation’s crime victims. As part of the 2015 appropriations bill, Congress more than tripled the annual amount of non-taxpayer money released from a special fund that helps crime victims.

Created as part of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA), the Crime Victims Fund is made up entirely of fines and other monetary penalties paid by Federal criminal offenders, not by taxpayers.  The money is then distributed to a variety of programs that help victims of all types of crimes, most of which is passed through state agencies to thousands of local programs that assist victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, families of homicide victims, victims of drunk driving crashes and other violent crimes. 

“The money that has been deposited into the Crime Victims Fund has reached historic levels,” according to NAVAA President Robert Gallup.  “Since 2000, however, Congress has limited the amount made available to support these important programs. Thanks to the recognition by Congressional appropriators of the need for more victim assistance services, Congress raised the annual cap to a level that will bring counseling, emergency shelter, and assistance in participating in the criminal justice system and other crucial support to millions of additional victims of all types of crimes.” 

The National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators (NAVAA) represents the state agencies that pass through these federal funds to local nonprofit and public agencies serving crime victims.  Every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and U.S. territories all share in the use of these victim assistance funds.  VOCA victim assistance grants awarded through these state agencies have annually support about 4,000 local programs that help approximately 3.5 million crime victims.

“Thanks to the efforts of the U.S. Justice Department, U.S. Attorneys, FBI and other federal law enforcement agencies, the amount of criminal fines deposited into the Crime Victims Fund has increased tremendously in recent years. This has now allowed Congress to raise the cap on annual VOCA funding.  This will translate into a major increase in our nation’s capacity to help crime victims without the use of any tax dollars,” said NAVAA Executive Director Steve Derene.  “This presents all of us – state administrators and local service providers—with a tremendous opportunity and challenge to continue to effectively serve victims of all types of crimes,” Derene said.

VOCA and the Crime Victims Fund are administered at the federal level by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U. S. Department of Justice.

The annual cap on VOCA funding in fiscal year 2014 was $745 million.  The new funding level for fiscal year 2015 will jump to $2.361 billion.  Because these non-taxpayer dollars have already been collected and deposited into the Fund, VOCA funding does not add to the nation’s debt or deficit.


VOCA victim assistance funds desperately needed

An overwhelming number of victim service program say there is a critical need for additional VOCA victim assistance. More than 80 percent of the 2,358 respondents said they "desperately" or "definitely" need additional VOCA victim assistance funds. The survey was sponsored by NAVAA, the National Center for Victims of Crime (NCVC), the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV). Eighty-eight percent of respondents said that they would use more VOCA funds to simply sustain their current services while 86 percent said they would use the additional funds to offer service to more crime victims. Programs were also asked about their need for major, non-recurring uses of additional VOCA funds (even if not currently permitted under VOCA rules). Most responses fell into the following categories:

  • Technology (e.g. computer hardware, Ipads, tablets, etc) - 40 percent
  • Data/case management programs - 14 percent
  • Infrastructure (e.g. shelter, housing, renovations, repair) - 28 percent
  • Equipment, furniture - 7 percent
  • Research (e.g. strategic plans, needs assessment, evaluations) 10 percent
  • Transportation (e.g. vehicles, cars, vans, etc.) - 5 percent
  • Training - 6 percent

NNEDV 2013 Census

According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence's (NNEDV) annual report, "Domestic Violence Counts 2013", a 24 hour census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services:

IN JUST ONE DAY:
  • 66,581 domestic violence victims were served through shelter, transitional housing, and advocacy.
    • 36,348 victims (19,431 children and 16,917 adults) were provided with safe shelter.
    • 30,233 adults and children received non-residential assistance, such as counseling, legal advocacy and support groups.
  • 20,267 hotline calls were answered, averaging over 14 calls every minute. 
  • 23,389 individuals attended 1,413 community education sessions.

Unfortunately, 9,641 requests for services went unmet because of a lack of resources or staffing.  On the survey day, 27 percent reported they were unable to provide requested services because of reduced government funding and 12 percent because of cuts form private funders and 10 percent because of reduced individual donations. During the past year, 1,696 staff positions were eliminated, most of which were direct service providers, such as shelter staff and legal advocates.

From 2006 to 2013, the annual number of adults and children served through domestic violence programs have increased by 39 percent; however, the number of unmet requests for services have increased by 87 percent!  This shows that the capacity to provide these critical services has not kept pace with the needs.

For more information, including the full report with compelling quotes from advocates, state-by-state data summaries, and additional resources, go to  www.nnedv.org/census.


VOCA-funded assistance continues to decline

The latest data from the Office for Victims of Crime indicates a continuing decline in the ability of victim assistance providers receiving state VOCA victim assistance funds to provide critical services to crime victims. According to 2012 state reports, a total of 3,486,655 victims of all types of crime received VOCA-funded assistance in 2012. This was 630,000 fewer victims than assisted in 2007:

Victim Population 2007 2012 Difference
Child Physical Abuse 182,298 182,775 477 0.3%
Child Sexual Abuse 406,820 374,165 -32,655 -8.0%
DUI/DWI Crashes 85,326 61,424 -23,902 -28.0%
Domestic Violence 1,859,912 1,683,750 -176,162 -9.5%
Adult Sexual Assault 237,047 205,963 -31,084 -13.1%
Elder Abuse 69,782 37,274 -32,508 -46.6%
Adults Molested as Children 92,946 60,009 -32,937 -35.4%
Survivors of Homicide Victims 115,813 79,719 -36,094 -31.2%
Robbery 179,216 176,719 -2,497 -1.4%
Assault 313,847 300,526 -13,321 -4.2%
Other 573,641 324,331 -249,310 -43.5%
TOTAL 4,116,648 3,486,655 -629,993 -15.3%

Funding Cuts Jeopardize Services to Victims of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

According to the Campaign for Funding to End Domestic and Sexual Violence, at least 106,020 fewer victims will receive critical assistance services because of the the 5 percent sequestration cut in federal funding (other than VOCA) for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Although 88 percent of state domestic violence coalitions reported an increase in demand for services, 69 percent said that domestic violence programs experienced funding decreases, according to a survey conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV). The survey also found that in 2011, 80 percent of the coalitions said that some programs had to reduce staff due to funding shortages and more than 70 percent reduced services to victims. Since 2011, at least 19 domestic violence programs have been forced to close entirely.

Impact of Funding Cuts on Sexual Assault Servicesnewnaesv

A new 2013 survey by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) of rape crisis centers revealed that:

  • Nearly 75% of rape crisis centers lost funding in the past year resulting in layoffs, reduced services and program closures;
  • Over half have reduced staff by layoffs and leaving positions unfilled;
  • More than one-third have waiting lists for services, some for as long as two months;
  • 35% said that survivors are unable to receive the full range of needed services.