From the Directors Desk

September 22, 2020

 

Fixing VOCA - We Can All Help!

The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) has been providing assistance to victims and survivors of crime since 1984 when the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) was established by the original VOCA  Act. While there have been increases and decreases over the years, in 2018 a large disbursement from the CVF allowed many Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) in South Carolina and across the country to increase services and improve the response to child abuse in local communities.

In recent years deposits to VOCA have decreased which depleted the CVF to a point that monies released to states for VOCA grants have decreased. In South Carolina, our CACs received an 18 percent cut in their VOCA grants for the coming fiscal year. Our VOCA administrators in South Carolina have indicated they expect continued decreases in grants to CACs in future years if monies allocated to states for VOCA grants continue to decrease. 

Unless Congress takes action to improve the health of the CVF by increasing deposits to VOCA, the resulting continued cuts in state grants will have a dramatic impact on our ability to respond to child abuse in South Carolina. Of course the COVID-19 crisis has created CAC capacity issues and in recent months, an increase in referrals to CACs. The impact of COVID-19 and potential additional cuts in VOCA grants would have a negative impact on our ability to provide a best practice response to child abuse in South Carolina.

So what can you do to help? During our recent virtual Washington DC Hill Day visit with the offices of Senator Graham and Senator Scott, we requested that the Senators support the following actions which would help CACs in South Carolina continue to meet the needs of child abuse victims.

  1. The shortfall of deposits into the Crime Victims Fund can be solved, or at least lessened, by redirecting into the CVF monetary penalties from federal deferred and non-prosecution agreements that, if associated with a conviction, would have been deposited into the CVF. Some of the monetary penalties associated with deferred and non-prosecution agreements are obligated for existing programs. However, a substantial amount is also deposited into the General Fund of the Treasury - more than $7.7 billion over the past three years - that would instead be deposited into the CVF.

  2. The Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) imposes a 20% match requirement for programs receiving VOCA victim assistance grants. This match can be met using both cash or in-kind donations. However, CACs are struggling to meet this match requirement as they are forced to cancel major fundraisers, philanthropic giving is directed to other sectors combatting COVID-19, volunteer pools are shrinking, internships are being cancelled, and state funding for CACs was lost for this fiscal year due to COVID-19. We informed the Senators that Congress can address this problem by temporarily waiving VOCA assistance match requirements, as it has done for many other grant programs, for the pendency of the COVID-19 crisis, plus at least an extra year to enable programs to recover.

We had a number of CAC Directors, along with SCNCAC staff, at the virtual visits with the Senators. However, it is critical that CACs reach out to their House members in Washington DC to request that they support efforts to address the dwindling deposits into the CVF and waiving VOCA assistance match requirements which will be critical to providing services to child abuse victims in South Carolina. Request that these provisions be included in any upcoming COVID-19 supplemental appropriations bill or in other legislation. For those of you that have Democratic House Representatives, urge the staff members in those offices to reach out to Monalisa Dugue with the House Judiciary committee staff for more information. If you have a Republican House Representative, urge the staff members in those offices to reach out to Jason Cervanek with the Ranking Member Jordan's office.

Our member CAC Directors can access Hill Day resources which include talking points and other information in our COVID-19 CAC shared files folder on our COVID-19 Member CAC/MDT Resources web page.

If you need assistance in locating contact information for your House Members in Washington DC, you may use the link below for information. These contacts you make with your Washington DC House Representatives will be crucial in our efforts to continue a best practice response to child abuse in South Carolina. In addition to reaching out to your House Representatives, feel free to reach out to Senator Graham or Senator Scott as well because every contact will help.

As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Tom

Thomas Knapp
Executive Director

U.S. House of Representatives

South Carolina Network of Children's Advocacy Centers
1300 Pickens Street, Suite 158, Columbia, SC 29208
803-576-7250  I  www.cac-sc.org

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