SALEM, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, along with 40 counterparts nationwide, sent a letter Wednesday urging Congress to authorize much-needed 2024 bridge funding for the federal Crime Victims Fund.
The VOCA Fund supports essential direct services for crime victims and survivors throughout the country, including in Oregon. These services can include medical care, mental health counseling, lost wages, courtroom advocacy and temporary housing. VOCA funds also provide support for important initiatives, including state and tribal victim service programs and grant awards to lifesaving programs such as temporary shelters for survivors of domestic violence.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, projected fiscal year 2024 funding for victim service grants will be $700 million lower than fiscal year 2023.
“Supporting crime victims and survivors is central to our mission at the Oregon Department of Justice. In fact, we have an entire Division devoted to this work. CVSSD (Crime Victim and Survivor Services Division) defends victims’ rights, helps them cover crime-related costs, provides trainings, funds grantees, and ensures victims’ and survivors voices are heard statewide. VOCA funding is absolutely essential to our ability to help people at this most challenging, scary time in their lives,” said Attorney General Rosenblum.
In Oregon, VOCA funds distributed through the Oregon Department of Justice help support 38 non-profit domestic and sexual violence services programs, victim assistance programs in 36 district attorney’s offices and 2 city attorney’s offices, 21 child advocacy centers, 11 culturally specific victim service programs, 8 Tribal Nation programs, and 28 population specific victim services programs.
The four-fold increase in VOCA funding Oregon received in 2016 marked the largest increase in victim services funding ODOJ had ever received, and the increase had a transformative effect on victim and survivor services across the state. The potential decrease in VOCA funding projected for FY 24 will not only roll back the gains our state has made in the ensuing years, but destabilize the foundational funding provided to essential victim service programs for well over a decade.
Established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984, the VOCA Fund is the primary financial source for victim services in all 50 states, five U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia. In 2021, Congress passed the VOCA Fix Act, which allowed monetary recoveries from federal deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements to replenish the fund.
However, while the passage of the VOCA Fix Act was necessary, it was not sufficient to adequately shore up fund balances, which come primarily from costs assessed to offenders in federal court and not from taxes. In 2024 VOCA funding for crime victim service programs is anticipated to be 41% lower nationwide when compared to 2023 grant awards. Without prompt action by Congress, many victim service programs across the country may be forced to close—and would be unlikely to reopen.
“As Oregon’s AG and as president of the National Association of Attorneys General I am proud to be part of this bipartisan coalition. We are asking Congress to heed the urgency of the situation and recognize that looking out for crime victims and survivors is a core responsibility of federal and state government alike,” AG Rosenblum added.
A copy of the letter can be found here.