Crime Victims Fund
The Crime Victims Fund (the Fund), established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA), is a major funding source for victim services throughout the Nation. Millions of dollars have been deposited into the Fund annually from criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties, and special assessments collected by U.S. Attorneys' Offices, federal U.S. courts, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. To date, Fund dollars have always come from offenders convicted of federal crimes, not from taxpayers. Previous legislation expanded the sources from which Fund deposits may come.1
Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 was a recordbreaking year for deposits, with $1,745,677,602 going into the Fund. Deposits for FYs 2007 and 2008 totaled $1.9 billion (figure 1). Despite its current financial strength, the Fund is vulnerable to fluctuations in deposits and other factors that may affect its ability to ensure that critical victim services are available well into the future.
Primary Sources of Revenue
Federal revenues deposited into the Crime Victims Fund come from the following sources:
When the Crime Victims Fund was authorized in 1984, a cap was placed on how much could be deposited into it for the first 8 years. During this time, the annual cap varied from $100 million to $150 million. The lifting of the cap in 1993 allowed for the deposit of all criminal fines, special assessments, and forfeited bail bonds to support crime victim program activities.
For the first 15 years of the Fund's existence, the total deposits for each fiscal year were distributed the following year to support services to crime victims.
Starting in 2000, in response to large fluctuations in deposits, Congress placed a cap on funds available for distribution. These annual caps were intended to maintain the Fund as a stable source of support for future services. From 2000 to 2008, the amount of the annual cap varied from $500 million to $625 million. The caps for FYs 2007 and 2008 were $625 million and $590 million respectively. The cap was set at $635 million for FY 2009.
Fund Support for Victim Services
Federal, state, and tribal victim assistance programs received formula grants, discretionary grants, and set-asides according to a carefully established annual allocation process (see figure 2). Following are descriptions of the main VOCA-funded streams that support programs and services:
In addition, the VOCA statute allows amounts retained in the Fund after awarding funding in the above program areas to be used to replenish the Antiterrorism Emergency Reserve, which funds emergency expenses and other services for victims of terrorism or mass violence within the United States and abroad.
What Is Crime Victim Compensation?
Crime victim compensation is a direct reimbursement to or on behalf of a crime victim for the following statutorily identified crime-related expenses:
Other compensable expenses may include the replacement or repair of eyeglasses or other corrective lenses, dental services and devices, prosthetic devices, crime scene cleanup, and forensic sexual assault exams. However, property damage and loss are not covered.
How Are VOCA Funds Allocated for Crime Victim Compensation Programs?
Every state administers a crime victim compensation program that provides financial assistance to victims of both federal and state crimes. Under VOCA, each state compensation program receives an annual grant equal to 60 percent of what the program spends in state money annually. This calculation is based on the state dollars paid out for the federal fiscal year 2 years prior to the year of the federal grant. Although each state administers its own program independently, most programs have similar eligibility requirements and offer comparable types of benefits. No more than 5 percent of each year's VOCA compensation formula grant may be used for administration and training; the rest must be used for awards of compensation to crime victims.
What Is Victim Assistance?
Victim assistance includes, but is not limited to, the following services:
More than 4,000 VOCA awards are made by states annually to public and private nonprofit organizations to provide these and other essential services to victims of crime.
How Are VOCA Funds Allocated for Victim Assistance Grants?
All states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico each receive an annual VOCA victim assistance grant with a base amount of $500,000; the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa each receive a base amount of $200,000. Additional funds are distributed to states and territories based on population. In each state and territory, VOCA assistance funds are awarded to local community-based organizations and public agencies that provide services directly to victims of crime. As with the VOCA compensation formula grants, a state may use no more than 5 percent of each VOCA assistance grant for administration and training purposes.
How Do States and Territories Determine Which Organizations Will Receive VOCA Victim Assistance Grants?
Each state and territory determines which organizations will receive funding based on the eligibility requirements for subrecipient programs contained in VOCA, the victim assistance guidelines, and the needs of crime victims in that state or territory. VOCA assistance funds may be used only for direct services to crime victims.
VOCA allows state grantees to use no more than 5 percent of each year's grant for training and administering the VOCA victim assistance grant at the state grantee level with the remaining portion being used exclusively for direct service providers. Services such as offender rehabilitation, criminal justice improvements, and crime prevention activities cannot be supported with VOCA victim assistance funds.
What Is the Purpose of Discretionary Funds?
VOCA authorizes OVC to use discretionary funds to improve and enhance the skills, knowledge, and abilities of victim service providers and allied professionals who work with crime victims. Each year, OVC specifies program priorities that identify the training and technical assistance and demonstration initiatives that should be funded in the coming year with discretionary funds available from the Fund.
How Are Discretionary Funds Used?
Discretionary funds are used for two types of activities.
1 Passed in October 2001, the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act) provided authority for the deposit of gifts, bequests, or donations from private entities into the Fund beginning in Fiscal Year 2002.
2 The USA PATRIOT Act authorized the transfer of emergency supplemental appropriation funding into the Emergency Reserve account to assist victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.