Yost urges Congress to stabilize funding for crime victims

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 16, 2024

COLUMBUS — Joined by a bipartisan coalition of 41 other state attorneys general, Ohio Attorney General Yost is spearheading an effort calling on Congress to authorize much-needed bridge funding for the federal Crime Victims Fund (also known as the VOCA Fund).

Funding for the victim-service grants is projected to be $700 million lower this fiscal year than in fiscal year 2023 – a 41 percent decrease, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime. Without prompt action by Congress, many victim-service programs nationwide may be forced to close.

“Catching the bad guys and putting them behind bars is only half the equation of justice,” Yost said. “Caring for the victims of crime is perhaps the more important half. It’s time for action.”

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Yost and his colleagues sent a letter to both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate urging them to provide short-term funding to keep programs running while the fund is replenished.

The VOCA Fund was established under the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 and is the primary financial source for victim services in Ohio and the 49 other states, five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia.

Revenue for the fund is generated from offenders convicted of crimes, not from taxes. In 2021, Congress passed the VOCA Fix Act, which allows monetary recoveries from federal deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements to replenish the fund.

Although passage of the VOCA Fix Act was necessary, it hasn’t produced enough revenue to shore up fund balances, leading to the severe funding shortage that is expected for this fiscal year.

The VOCA Fund supports medical care, mental health counseling, lost wages, courtroom advocacy and temporary housing for victims and survivors of crime. It also helps to fund federal, state and tribal victim-service programs, crime victim compensation, discretionary grant awards, victim specialists in U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the FBI, and the federal victim-notification system.

In 2023, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office administered VOCA-funded assistance to 326 agencies statewide – domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, child advocacy centers and more – aiding more than 321,000 Ohioans.

Leading efforts with Yost on the letter were the attorneys general of Illinois, Oklahoma and Wisconsin. The letter was also supported by their colleagues in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, The District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, the Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.