McGrath, Nation’s Attorneys General Urge Congress Not to Cut Funding for Crime Victim Services
HELENA – Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath on Tuesday joined the attorneys general of all 50 states in expressing to Congress concern about drastic cuts of more than $1.2 billion from the Federal Crime Victims Fund. The fund provides direct assistance to victims of violent crimes.
“The Administration’s proposal for the FY 2006 budget to remove $1.27 billion from the Crime Victims Fund would have a devastating impact on our ability to support victims of crime,” the attorneys general said in their letter.
The Federal Crime Victims Fund was created by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA). VOCA funds come entirely from collection of federal criminal fines, forfeitures and special assessments – not from taxpayers. Through grants to state victim compensation programs, victims of violent crime nationwide have been able to get help for medical care, mental health counseling, funeral and burial expenses and other vital services.
According to McGrath, in the nine months between July 1, 2004 and March 30 this year, Montana’s Crime Victim Compensation program paid $771,800 in benefits for medical and other services provided to over 400 victims.
“Without these VOCA funds, we simply wouldn’t be able to serve as many victims,” McGrath said. “We’ve made great strides in Montana in improving the services we provide to people who become victims through no fault of their own. If Congress cuts these funds, that progress will be severely undermined.”
The appeal to Congress coincided with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 10-16.
“Some 4,400 local programs depend on VOCA assistance grants to provide necessary services to nearly 4 million victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, drunk driving, elder abuse and robberies, as well as families of homicide victims and other victims of crime,” the letter to Congress said. “VOCA is the only federal grant program that supports direct assistance services to victims of every description.”
The Attorneys General asked Congress to protect funding for vital crime victim services and ensure that funds will be available in years to come.
VOCA funds are administered by the Office for Victims of Crime in the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs. Although the Administration’s proposed federal budget includes VOCA funding of $650 million for fiscal year 2006, all other funds remaining in the fund and any new dollars collected in fiscal year 2006 would be eliminated. Starting in 2007, then, there would be no money readily available for state victim assistance programs, crime victim compensation grants or for federal personnel who provide victim services.
“The proposed cut could not come at a worse time for states and territories,” which are facing significant budget problems, the letter said. “Victims should not be further burdened by having to pay for such services themselves, or worse, forced to go without them.”
The Attorneys General of Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands also signed the letter.