Durbin Speaks On Bipartisan & Bicameral Legislation To Sustain Crime Victims Fund

WASHINGTON – Ahead of a vote on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today spoke in support of the bipartisan, bicameral VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act, which strengthens the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) by fixing how the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) is funded. Specifically, the bill redirects 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.  

“This legislation, which I was proud to introduce with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), will replenish the Crime Victims Fund, which Congress established in 1984 with the passage of the Victims of Crime Act, known as VOCA. The Crime Victims Fund helps abused children, survivors of domestic violence, and other victims of violent crime access the professional services they desperately need. It also assists victims with expenses like medical bills, counseling, funeral costs, and loss of wages, and, importantly, the Crime Victims Fund supplies grants to thousands, literally thousands of victim service providers across the nation,” Durbin said in a speech on the Senate floor. “More than 1,700 national, regional, state, tribal, and local organizations are begging us to do this and do it today, so we can send it to the President and ensure that the victims are able to maintain access to services they desperately need. We owe it to the victims to get this done.”

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.

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.