As of 3-18-21, Senator Tim Scott has now signed on as a cosponsor of the VOCA Fix Act S.611. So we now have both Senator Graham and Senator Scott as cosponsors. We thank all of our supporters for reaching out.
On 3-17-21 the US House of Representatives passed the VOCA Fix Act with a 384-38 vote. Now the VOCA Fix Act will go to the Senate where Senator Graham is a supporter and co-sponsor of the VOCA Fix Act in the Senate.
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) was signed into law in 1984 and was created to assist and compensate victims and survivors of crime which includes the victims of child abuse that our Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) serve. One of the most underrated but important aspects of the bill is that the funding comes from federal criminal fines, forfeitures, and special assessments, but, not from tax dollars.
We need every member of the South Carolina Network of Children's Advocacy Centers (SCNCAC), multidisciplinary team (MDT) members, and supporters to help us reach out to Congress about Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding, which is in danger of serious and long-term cuts unless we act as a movement to stop it.
The situation is dire! Federal grants to victim services through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) decreased by 35% last year on top of a 25% decrease the previous year, and further drastic cuts are expected. VOCA grants are financed by non-taxpayer-funding and this pool of money is running dry. Congress can fix this by ensuring federal financial penalties from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements are treated the same way as penalties resulting from criminal convictions - that they go to serve and compensate crime victims. And that’s exactly what the VOCA Fix Act does!
As noted above, VOCA funds are non-tax dollars that arise from criminal convictions. But as we all know, not every case ends in a conviction—some cases result in deferred prosecutions or non-prosecution agreements but still carry monetary penalties. However, the monetary penalties in deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution cases are not currently included in the VOCA fund. On Thursday, March 4, 2021, Senator Graham (R-SC) along with other Senators and Representatives introduced the bipartisan, bicameral VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 (“the VOCA Fix Act”). This critical legislation will prevent devastating cuts to federal funding for victim service programs through the Victims of Crime Act (“VOCA”), including programs serving victims and survivors of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, trafficking, drunk driving, assault, homicide, and other crimes. Without this VOCA Fix, Children's Advocacy Centers in South Carolina could lose up to 42 percent of their staff that provide direct services like forensic interviews, medical, and mental health services to child abuse victims and their caregivers.
One of the great benefits of this effort is that our work has bipartisan support. Working to help child victims of abuse heal, recover, and thrive is not a Republican or a Democratic issue—it is a human issue. And please note for those reading this that are MDT professionals: Reaching out to Congress about VOCA is not considered lobbying. It’s educating your members of Congress (who want to hear from you as a constituent) about the impact on your CAC and community if these funds are cut.
Dear [staffer name],
My name is [your name and CAC name if you are with a CAC], and I am a constituent writing you from [your location] and I urge you to support the bipartisan, bicameral VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act ("the VOCA Fix Act").
The professionals at our Children's Advocacy Center (CAC), are first responders in addressing child abuse by bringing together a coordinated team of experts in medicine, law enforcement, victim advocacy, mental health, and other disciplines to both hold offenders accountable and help children and families heal in a comprehensive, seamless way so no future is out of reach. CACs, as well as other victim service providers for programs serving survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, drunk driving, homicide, and other crimes, rely heavily on Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants. VOCA also supplements state victim compensation funds. VOCA grants are not taxpayer-funded; instead, VOCA is funded by monetary penalties from federal criminal convictions. As the Department of Justice is entering into more deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, the money available for VOCA grants has dropped dramatically. As a result, grants for victim services were cut 25% last year, and victim service providers are facing further potentially catastrophic cuts in their VOCA grants in the coming year. The South Carolina Network of Children's Advocacy Centers has reported that these cuts could lead to the loss of up to 42 percent of direct services providers at Children's Advocacy Centers in South Carolina over the next few years.
[If applicable and you are a CAC/MDT member, explain how cuts to victim services and victim compensation grants will impact your community. This is where you can include a proposed 40% cut to services. If you are a supporter who is not a professional with a CAC/MDT you can just state that you are concerned about the VOCA cuts having an impact on services provided to child abuse victims in your community.]
The VOCA Fix Act solves this crisis by redirecting monetary penalties from deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the VOCA fund and increasing the federal government’s contribution to state victim compensation funds. More than 1680 organizations and government agencies have signed onto a letter in support of the VOCA Fix Act, which can be found at https://tinyurl.com/23drue5v. You can get specific information about the impact of VOCA cuts on the response to child abuse in South Carolina by contacting the South Carolina Network of Children's Advocacy Centers at 803-576-7250 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a constituent and as someone who cares deeply about victims and survivors, I urge you to support swift passage of the VOCA Fix Act.
So that is what we are asking all CAC supporters and CAC/MDT professionals to do, copy, paste and send emails to your members of Congress as soon as possible. It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of our CACs in South Carolina, and of our ability to help child victims and survivors in the way we are currently doing is in jeopardy. Please take the time to reach out to Congress today, before it is too late.