VOCA Funding Call To Action
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 Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina (CACNC), 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. In North Carolina, due to the funding structure, CACs received more than a 65% funding cut in this most recent grant cycle.
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, numerous 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 North Carolina could lose up to 67 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.
Here is what we need CAC/MDT Professionals and all of our supporters to do:
- Send an email to your representative and your senators. If you don’t know who they are, you can look them up using the information below. Use as the subject line: “Constituent request on critical VOCA funding”.
**To make it easy, here is the content of an email you can send—be sure to personalize it wherever you see text set in [brackets]:**
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 67% in this most recent funding cycle, and victim service providers are facing further potentially catastrophic cuts in their VOCA grants in the coming years. Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina has reported that these cuts could lead to the loss of more than 65 percent of direct services providers at Children’s Advocacy Centers in North 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 North Carolina by contacting the Children’s Advocacy Centers of North Carolina at 336-886-4589 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.
- If you prefer, call and leave a voicemail for the staffers asking the member of the House or the senators to support swift passage of the VOCA Fix Act.
- If you are a CAC/MDT professional, ask your staff, other MDT members, supporters, and board members to do the same. Members of Congress count the phone calls and emails they get on an issue to tell them how to vote. Now is the time to get as many people as possible to call and email Congress so that we send a clear message about the importance of this to CACs. Even if you are not a CAC/MDT professional, your voice is important and you can have an impact by reaching out.
- If you want to review a copy of the VOCA fix letter referenced above, you can use the link below
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 North 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.