How Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Funds May Be Used to Assist Victims of Financial Fraud
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) authorizes the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) of the U.S. Department of Justice to administer grants to the states for victim services and victim compensation. Although VOCA funds may not be used to compensate victims of fraud for their financial or property losses, VOCA funds may be used to provide such victims with services to help them obtain justice and healing. VOCA defines "services" as efforts that
OVC allows each state grantee the latitude to determine how VOCA victim assistance grant funds can be used most effectively. The eligibility requirements for organizations receiving VOCA funds may be found in sections IV.B and IV.C of the 1997 VOCA Victim Assistance Final Program Guidelines.
In response to comments from VOCA victim assistance and victim compensation program administrators, victim service providers, representatives of national victim organizations, elder services agencies, and other victim advocates, the revised Guidelines, published in April 1997, encourage states to fund new or expanded services for victims of fraud and economic exploitation. The amended language of the Guidelines does the following:
VOCA grant funds may support direct services for fraud victims, such as the following:
1.Immediate Health and Safety
Services that respond to the immediate emotional and physical needs of crime victims (excluding medical care) are eligible for support with VOCA victim assistance grant funds. Examples include crisis intervention; hotline counseling; and providing emergency food, clothing, transportation, and shelter (section IV.E.1.a.).
2.Mental Health Assistance/Support Groups
Counseling, on either an individual or group basis, may help some fraud victims and their family members understand their victimization and stabilize their lives after the experience. Grant funds may be used to pay for individual counseling, fraud support groups, and therapy (section IV.E.1.b.).
3.Respite Care and Serving Victims with Disabilities
Assistance with participation in criminal justice proceedings can be paid for with VOCA funds. These may include the cost of caring for a child or a dependent adult so that a victim can attend court. Funds may be used to purchase items such as Braille equipment for the blind or TTY/TTD machines for the deaf, or to make minor building improvements that make services more accessible to victims with disabilities (section IV.E.1.c. and IV.E.2.d.).
4.Credit Counseling Advocacy or Other Special Services
VOCA funds may be used to help crime victims manage the practical problems created by victimization. One example would be acting on behalf of the victim with other service providers, creditors, or employers (section IV.E.1.f.).
Restitution advocacy on behalf of specific crime victims is now an allowable activity under VOCA grants. Restitution advocacy can include the cost of purchasing, developing, printing, and distributing restitution information for victims. Victim/witness coordinators may prefer to hold a meeting with a group of fraud victims or develop a formal program to discuss the restitution process, such as a one-day restitution clinic or workshop (section IV.E.1.c.).
Grant funds can be used to support presentations that are made in community centers, nursing homes, and other public forums and that are designed to identify fraud victims and provide or refer them to needed services. Specifically, grant funds can be used to cover presentation materials, brochures, and newspaper notices about the event (section IV.E.2.k.).
The use of computers and automated victim notification systems can dramatically improve the ability to reach and serve fraud victims (section IV.E.2.f.). In purchasing these technologies with grant funds, applicants should describe the following:
VOCA grant administrative funds may assist fraud victims through the following:
VOCA funds can be used for training direct service providers, such as social service workers, adult protective service providers, and mental health and medical professionals about the nature of financial fraud and the needs of its victims.
VOCA funds can be used to purchase, print, or develop publications such as brochures, training manuals for service providers, or victim services directories. For example, VOCA funds could be used to translate and print informational brochures to assist non-English speaking victims of financial fraud.
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