Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) today announced at the Jackson County Children's Advocacy Center that he is cosponsoring two pieces of legislation to increase the availability of federal resources for victims of crime.
Taken together, the Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act (H.R. 3402) and the Victims of Crime Act Preservation Fund Act (H.R. 483) would free up hundreds of millions of dollars of federal resources for victims of crime and the organizations that support them -- like the Jackson County Children's Advocacy Center -- without raising any taxes on the public.
"Organizations on the front lines that provide invaluable services to victims of crime should not be forced to fight an annual battle over a fund that was set up solely to provide victim assistance," Rep. Walden said. "Victims of crime, especially children, don't have high-powered lobbyists fighting for them in Washington, D.C."
"The important work done by dedicated community organizations like the Jackson County Children's Advocacy Center deserves more dedicated federal support. Through the passage of H.R. 3402, Congress can provide more help to victims and expand the outreach of local victim service providers," Walden said.
"Ensuring that victims of child abuse and other violence receive essential services -- such as shelter from domestic violence, victim witness support, and mentoring abused children -- empowers them to become survivors and move forward with their lives," Walden said.
The end result of H.R. 3402 would be more than doubling the amount of federal resources available for organizations like the Jackson County Children's Advocacy Center, hopefully making it easier for them to secure the competitive federal grants that they deserve.
Rep. Walden is also an original co-sponsor of a resolution recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Background on federal funding for victims of crime
The Crime Victims Fund, established in 1984 by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), is dedicated solely to supporting services to help crime victims. The money comes entirely from fines and other penalties paid by federal criminal offenders, not from taxpayers.
Grants to state VOCA victim assistance programs fund services to more than 4 million victims of all types of crimes, including, among others, domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, survivors of homicide victim, drunk driving crashes, stalking, and elder abuse. The Jackson County Children's Advocacy Center regularly applies for the highly competitive grants.
Currently, Congress imposes a cap on the annual distributions from the fund and maintains a "rainy day reserve" to ensure the fund can remain solvent in years when large fluctuations in federal criminal fines occur.
The current cap on the fund is $705 million; the rainy day reserve holds more than $2.2 billion. As crime victims' needs and the costs of programs to serve them continue to increase, the distribution cap becomes even more restrictive for the local services that depend on the federal support.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 336,000 fewer crime victims received VOCA assistance services in 2008 than during the previous year.
What H.R. 3402 would do
H.R. 3402 would increase the annual cap on funds distributed to support victims while maintaining a rainy day fund of at least $800 million.
Including Rep. Walden, the legislation has 13 co-sponsors -- four Republicans and nine Democrats. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is a cosponsor of the Senate version of the bill.
Under the bill's minimum funding level the distribution amount would be:
* $705 million for fiscal year 2010
* $867.1 million for fiscal year 2011
* $1 billion for fiscal year 2012
* $1.3 billion for fiscal year 2013
* $1.6 billion for fiscal year 2014
HR 3402 has been endorsed by 44 national and state victim advocacy and criminal justice organizations, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, National CASA Association, Family Violence Prevention Fund, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
A letter of support for the bill was signed by 54 state Attorneys Generals, including Oregon Attorney General John Kroger.
What H.R. 483 would do
H.R. 483 would put the VOCA rainy day fund in a lock box to prevent the funds from being used for anything other than victim assistance programs.
HR 483 has 38 cosponsors (9 Republicans and 28 Democrats), including Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.).
Representative Greg Walden is the House Republican Leadership Chairman and represents Oregon's Second Congressional District, which is comprised of 20 counties in eastern, southern, and central Oregon.