Durbin Attempts To Pass Bipartisan & Bicameral Legislation To Sustain Crime Victims Fund

Senator Pat Toomey objected to Durbin’s request

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today on the Senate floor requested unanimous consent to pass the bipartisan VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, which would strengthen the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) by fixing how the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) is funded. Specifically, the bill would redirect monetary penalties from federal deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements into the CVF to increase funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs and grants to victims service providers. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) joined Senator Durbin in making the request. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) objected to the request.

Deposits into the CVF are historically low. The decrease is due in large part to greater use of deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements—monetary penalties associated with these prosecutions are currently deposited into the General Treasury, not the CVF.

“Our bill would stabilize the depleted fund by redirecting monetary penalties from deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements to the victims and service providers that desperately need help. The reduced deposits into the fund have already had a devastating impact. Victim assistance grants have been reduced by more than $600 million in 2021 and more cuts are looming if we don't do something,” Durbin said. “Advocates across the state of Illinois and across the country have reached out and shared what these cuts would mean for their agencies and the victims they serve.”

Durbin continued, “There's no time to waste. Every day that goes by, we miss an opportunity to help replenish this fund. In 2021, the fund has already missed out on approximately $400 million in deposits. We're not even halfway through the year. Imagine how much more money the fund may lose if we don't do something. That's why it's imperative that the Senate immediately pass this bill. The House already did it in March with broad bipartisan support. Here in the Senate, we have a coalition of 56 senators cosponsoring legislation. We can send this bill to the president's desk today. We should have sent it to him weeks ago.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.

In 1984, VOCA established the CVF, which provides grant funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs.  Grants are awarded to states, local governments, individuals, and other entities by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office for Victims of Crime.  The CVF does not receive appropriated funding, and instead receives most money through deposits from criminal fines; as a result, deposits fluctuate annually based on cases that the DOJ prosecutes.  Additionally, money from forfeited appearance bonds, penalties, and special assessments collected by U.S. Attorneys Offices, federal courts, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons is also deposited into the CVF. 

Due to the rapidly diminishing balance in the CVF, victim services are already being slashed in states across the country, and some programs and services may see close to a 100 percent cut within two years if Congress does not act. In Illinois, VOCA victim assistance grant awards went from nearly $129 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 to approximately $41 million in FY2021—a nearly 70 percent reduction from FY2018. Organizations are preparing for significant further cuts that will force them to layoff VOCA-funded staff who provide critical services to survivors, including counselors, advocates, and lawyers. VOCA cuts would also impact the ability of states to compensate victims; for example, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul shared that the state’s “Crime Victims’ Compensation Bureau receives approximately 3,000 applications for compensation annually,” and that “VOCA funds allow the Illinois Attorney General’s office to reimburse families for counseling expenses, medical bills, lost wages and so much more.” 

The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, introduced by Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), has wide support from the victims’ rights and law enforcement groups, including the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, and the National Association of Attorneys General.

The bill would:

  • Direct federal criminal settlements from Federal non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements, currently deposited into the General Treasury, into the CVF (known as the “deposits fix,” this change would be the most significant and could make an additional $4–$7 billion of non-taxpayer money available to the CVF);
  • Increase the percentage that state compensation programs are reimbursed by the Federal government from 60 to 75 percent;
  • Allow states to apply for a no-cost extension for VOCA assistance grants;
  • Give states the ability to waive subgrantee match requirements for VOCA assistance grants; and
  • Provide additional flexibility for state victim compensation programs to provide compensation for victims, even if they do not interact with law enforcement.