During a meeting at the Loudoun Abused Women Shelter’s administrative office in Leesburg, CEO Judy Hanley warned Rep. Jennifer T. Wexton (D-VA-10) about a crisis in funding that victim services organizations across the country face if Congress does not act.
About half of LAWS’s operating budget this year comes through the federal Victims of Crime Act, which channels money paid in fines by federal criminals into the Crime Victims Fund and then on to victim services agencies. And Hanley said that funding stands to take a huge hit.
“There’s less money going into that fund because there isn’t the same level of federal prosecution,” Hanley said. “[…]There’s a possibility that we can lose half of it this year, but then two years from now, definitely there’s a possibility we could lose even more than that, and trying to make up those VOCA funds with donations from the community is going to be incredibly difficult.”
National law enforcement and victim advocate organizations have sent a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to take action to direct more funding into the Crime Victims Fund and make that money more readily available to victim services organizations.
“The rapidly diminishing balance in the Fund has created a desperate situation. Services and support to victims are being slashed in states across the country. Without immediate action by Congress, VOCA-funded programs and services will see catastrophic cuts, and in some cases close to a 100% cut, within two years,” the letter reads.
The Crime Victims Fund is seeing historically low deposits, according to that letter. The past three years have seen the smallest deposits into the fund since 2003. That is caused in party by increases in deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements over the past four years—those agreements are deposited into the General Treasury rather than the Crime Victims Fund.
Unless Congress acts, Virginia is expected to lose out on nearly $69 million this year,a 79% cut in funding compared to Fiscal Year 2018.
LAWS is among the more than 1,500 signatories on a companion letter.
“Such cuts to programs that already struggle to serve every survivor who walks through their doors would mean that hundreds of thousands of Americans would be unable to access lifesaving services every year, programs would be forced to close, and tens of thousands of advocates could lose their jobs during a time of extremely high unemployment,” reads that letter. “This would also coincide with continued increased need, particularly for African-American communities that have been disproportionately impacted, for services resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced state and local funding.”
And time is precious, they note—each day that passes without a fix is another day missed on adding money to the Crime Victims Fund.
The need for LAWS’s services has only become more acute in the COVID-19 pandemic. Barely a month into the year, as of Feb. 9, Hanley said, LAWS had already served 250 people. In a normal year, LAWS serves around 1,200 people all year. At the same time, during the COVID-19 the organization cannot use its shelter. LAWS is also preparing for a fundraising campaign to acquire efficiency apartments for clients.