2016 VOCA FundingThe Administration’s FY 2016 budget request asks for a VOCA cap of $1 billion, of which $25 million would be used for Vision 21, $20 million for tribal assistance, $10 million for domestic trafficking victims grants and $77 million for Office of Justice Programs management and administrative costs. It is estimated that, based on the Administration's budget request, FY 16 formula grants for state victim assistance programs would be reduced by approximately 70 percent from the estimated FY 15 grants.
The proposal also calls for up to 3 percent to be made available to the National Institute of Justice and the Bureau of Justice Statistics for research, evaluation or statistical purposes related to crime victims and related programs.
Notwithstanding the Administration's budget request, the final amount available for VOCA will be determined by the appropriations bills enacted by Congress.
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
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:
|Child Physical Abuse||182,298||182,775||477||0.3%|
|Child Sexual Abuse||406,820||374,165||-32,655||-8.0%|
|Adult Sexual Assault||237,047||205,963||-31,084||-13.1%|
|Adults Molested as Children||92,946||60,009||-32,937||-35.4%|
|Survivors of Homicide Victims||115,813||79,719||-36,094||-31.2%|