The Crime Victims Fund is still refilling with VOCA funds thanks to our collective advocacy. Here’s how we navigate the next few years toward sustainability.
The president has signed into law an Omnibus Spending Bill, defining the federal budget for the coming year. The Omnibus Bill includes a number of critical updates that affect VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) funding for CACs and NCA grant funding allocated through VOCAA (Victims of Child Abuse Act). Here’s an insider’s view of what’s happening in Washington and what critical actions you can take to help ensure abundant, sustainable funding for CACs for years to come.
What’s happening with VOCA?
The FY 22 Federal Budget is law, and VOCA is funded at the minimum floor level we in the CAC movement requested at $2.6B. This is $600M more than last year, and a 40% increase in the dollar amounts going to states to distribute through VOCA administrators. Thanks to the minimum floor, we have one year of funding at the level we requested.
What’s at stake for CACs?
However, even though the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) began replenishing after the passage of the VOCA Fix Bill, the fund is still currently low. The CVF, which funds VOCA, is derived of federal criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties, and special assessments collected by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, federal courts, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Cases must be tried, and funds must be collected and then deposited to replenish the CVF before the full effect of the VOCA Fix is felt. All signs are pointing to the CVF being back on a sustainable path, but CACs and Chapters must advocate hard to ensure that VOCA funding for children is available in the meantime.
When kids come in the door of the CAC, we want them to understand that there are adults ready to hear them, and believe them. When we asked them, 98% of children served by our nation’s 924 Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) told us we listened to them. They felt heard by our passionate advocates. Yet, these same CACs that heal lives need sustainable VOCA funding even as the CVF refills.
How VOCA and the CVF work
These fines and settlements ultimately determine how much funding goes into CVF, and Congressional appropriators are ultimately the ones who determine how much is released from it to State VOCA administrators. Finally, these VOCA administrators have discretion over how much of these funds to release to CACs and other victim service agencies in their states. If the fund falls too low, or if they are concerned about future revenues, state VOCA administrators may hold back some or all available funds to insure against future cuts to victim service agencies.
Here’s a diagram explaining how the CVF and VOCA work: sort of like a reservoir. Money flows in, and after a historic drought and our hard work to repair the levee where funds were leaking out, the reservoir is slowly refilling. CACs depend on this money to help hope and healing bloom in communities across the country.
Meanwhile, Congress has opened up the flow from the reservoir to State VOCA Administrators. These State VOCA Administrators are tasked with ensuring states and communities have sustainable funding based on what they get from Congress. While many are cautious about releasing all the funds now, concerned about the future weather, it’s our job to help them understand the immediate need in communities and advocate for an appropriate level of funding so CACs can keep functioning.
What is NCA doing?
- Thanking Congressional supporters for these important increases in funding as we continue to educate about the need for more funding.
- Advocating to both DOJ and Congress to ensure that all parties understand the impacts of funding cuts, interruptions, and uncertainty on our services to children and families.
- Providing specialized technical assistance and guidance as needed to CAC and Chapter advocacy leaders to develop a state-specific approach to ensure level, sustainable funding.
What’s happening with the Victims of Child Abuse Act?
The President has signed the Omnibus Bill, funding VOCAA through the rest of the federal fiscal year, funding 2023 NCA grants to CACs and Chapters. In the Omnibus Bill, VOCAA will receive $33 million for FY22. Despite highly anticipated increases of significantly more, we very much appreciate the $3 million increase over our current funding levels. In their final negotiations Congress made across the board cuts to most expected discretionary increases to offset other spending priorities such as aid to Ukraine.
While this is disappointing, we have already begun fighting to reestablish the higher funding levels in the FY23 budget. You will receive ways to help with that in coming days. Chapters can get more state-specific information from our government affairs team regarding what this means for the upcoming grant year for Chapter funds. But, Chapters should rest assured that this level of increase will allow us to meet our commitment to offset the lost $15,000 per Chapter in RCAC funding in the upcoming year.
What can I do right now to bring #PowerToTheKids and amplify their voices?
The more you can do to amplify the voices of kids to our elected officials, the better chance this action to build sustainability for CACs will work! It’s up to you and your network.
We’re more than just a voice for kids. We’re listening to them.
When we say amplify kids’ voices, we mean it. Through the Outcome Measurement System (OMS) Youth Feedback Survey, we have been able to collect anonymous responses directly from the kids we serve. What did they say? They told us CACs matter to them, and that these services change lives. Learn about it from the CAC professionals and data scientists who created the survey project and worked with the kids we serve in this short video.