PA, MD push for reauthorizing Crime Victims Fund in 2024

13 February 2024- Attorney General Michelle Henry joined a bipartisan coalition of 41 Attorneys General in urging the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to authorize much-needed 2024 bridge funding for the federal Crime Victims Fund (the “VOCA Fund”), which provides crime victims a network of care and resources.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, funding for victim services grants will be significantly cut in 2024 — by an estimated $700 million from last year.

“Our judicial process is based on doing all we can to make victims whole again, and the VOCA Fund is essential to achieving that goal,” Attorney General Henry said. “This fund takes money from offenders who caused the harm and puts it toward resources and services that can immediately help crime victims. I have spent my entire career advocating for victims who become survivors when they are supported and empowered by our system.”

The VOCA Fund was established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, and it is the primary financial source for victim services in all 50 states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. VOCA Fund revenue is generated from offenders convicted of crimes, not from taxes.

These programs provide a variety of vital resources for victims and survivors of crime in the Commonwealth, including individual counseling, emergency shelter and safe housing, notification of criminal justice events, crisis intervention, hotlines and crisis line counseling, and emergency justice-related assistance.

The VOCA Fund also provides funding for state compensation programs, a critical financial lifeline for people who have experienced crime victimization. The Commonwealth’s Victims Compensation Assistance Program can directly reimburse expenses such as medical, counseling, funeral, and relocation.

In 2021, Congress passed the VOCA Fix Act, which allows monetary recoveries from federal deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements to replenish the fund. While passage of the VOCA Fix Act was necessary, it was not sufficient to adequately shore up fund balances, and 2024 VOCA funding for crime victim service programs is anticipated to be 41% lower nationwide when compared to 2023 grant awards.

“The financial strain, trauma, and devastation that violence has had on individuals and families across our Commonwealth was a main takeaway from my Safer Communities Tour. Victims and survivors of crime need our support, and the victims’ service programs that provide them with critical, life-saving services need our support as well, more than ever,” said Lt. Gov. Austin Davis, who serves as chair of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. “Federal VOCA funds are an essential lifeline for the programs and professionals who offer these essential services to victims and survivors, and action is urgently needed to make sure VOCA funding continues to be available for victim service programs in Pennsylvania.”

Federal action is urgently needed to ensure continued availability of essential services for victims and communities in the short- and long-term. Without prompt action by Congress, many victim service programs across the country may be forced to close.

Joining Attorney General Henry in the letter are the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Northern Mariana Islands, North Carolina, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada,  New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Virgin Islands, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

A copy of the letter can be found here.