NNEDV supports raising the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) cap for Fiscal Year 2012 and including targeted funding in VOCA to address domestic and sexual violence.
The VOCA Fund was created by Congress in 1984 to provide federal support to state and local programs that assist victims of crime. The VOCA Fund is derived entirely from fines and penalties paid by offenders at the federal level, not taxpayer revenue, and is largely distributed to the states through a formula grant. The state money funds both crime victim compensation funds and victim assistance grants.
More than 4,400 local agencies from all 56 states and territories depend on VOCA assistance grants to serve over 3.8 million crime victims each year. VOCA assistance grants provide funding for crisis intervention, counseling, transportation, services for elder victims and victims with disabilities, volunteer coordinators, translation services, needs assessments, and other support services that help victims deal with the trauma and aftermath of a crime.
Fines and penalties paid by offenders at the federal level are deposited into the VOCA fund. Because the deposits vary from year to year, Congress decided to set a "cap" on the fund, limiting the amount of money that can be distributed from the fund in a given year. The cap is intended to ensure stable funding over time, despite fluctuation in deposits. There is approximately $6 billion currently in the fund.
The gap in services for domestic violence and sexual assault victims is particularly acute. During 2010, domestic violence programs laid off or did not replace over 2,000 staff positions and at least 77% of domestic violence programs reported funding cuts, while at the same time 82% of programs reported an increase in the demand for services. Funding cuts and fewer staff means that programs are unable to provide critically needed services for victims fleeing violence. In an effort to stay open with limited funding, many programs are eliminating services such as individual counseling or programs for children. On just one day in 2010, while domestic violence program served 70,648 victims, these same programs were unable to meet 9,451 requests for services that day because of a lack of resources. Additional VOCA funds are critically needed to respond to the crisis caused by the dangerous gap in available services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
The President's proposed FY 2012 Budget included a $145 million increase for the VOCA cap over FY 2011, which would raise the cap to $850 million. The President's budget also proposes targeting $135 million specifically to domestic violence and sexual assault services.
We urge Congress to release $1 billion from the VOCA fund and support the President’s request to set aside $135 million from the VOCA cap for domestic violence and sexual assault services.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science passed its FY ‘12 appropriations bill in July 2011, which maintained the FY ‘11 VOCA Fund cap at $705 million.
This bill is just the first step in the appropriations process. It will now need to be passed by the full House Appropriations committee and then the complete House of Representatives. A similar process will happen in the Senate, and the final appropriation bills must be reconciled before ultimately being submitted to President Obama for his signature and becoming law.
What You Can Do To Help
- Sign-up for NNEDV's action alerts so that you can contact Congress when it is most strategic to ensure an increased VOCA cap.
The VOCA Fund Cap - The annual amount distributed out of the VOCA Fund. The cap is set in the Congressional Budget each year.
The VOCA Fund - The balance of money deposited into the fund through fees and fines paid by convicted federal criminals. Currently, the balance of the VOCA Fund is around $4.3 billion.
VOCA Victim Assistance Grants - Funding distributed by states to victim service providers such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, victim assistants in law enforcement and prosecutors offices.
VOCA Crime Victim Compensation - Pays out-of-pocket expenses incurred by victims.
Learn more about VOCA:
- More Information about VOCA
- National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators (FAQs on VOCA, the Crime Victims Fund, Victim Assistance Grants and Crime Victim Compensation)
- VOCA Survey Results