August 25, 2020- Tamuning, Guam- Attorney General Leevin Taitano Camacho, alongside attorneys general from all 50 states and the five other U.S. territories, is urging Congress to adopt key changes to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) which provides critical financial support to victims of violent crimes and their families.
The attorneys general call on Congress to adopt changes to the Crime Victims Fund, a national fund that supports victims’ services programs. The recommendations will stabilize the Fund’s finances and provide more flexibility to grantees who are providing services to victims and their families.
“These measures would ensure that victims and their families in Guam and across the country continue to have access to critical services,” said Attorney General Camacho. “The measures we’re calling for would also help sustain the Criminal Injuries Compensation Program, from which we have awarded over $600,000 to victims of violent crimes and their families to help with expenses such as medical bills.”
The Fund, established by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (“VOCA”), is the primary funding source for victim services in all 50 states and six U.S. territories. The Fund covers the expenses of essential direct services and support for victims and survivors in the aftermath of crime.
Recipients of these VOCA funds include Erica’s House, Guam Legal Services, Sanctuary, Victim Advocates Reaching Out, and the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Victims Service Center. Over $3M of VOCA funds have been awarded from 2017 through 2019.
VOCA funding also supports the Guam Criminal Injuries Compensation Program (CICP), a fund that provides financial compensation to eligible victims of violent crimes. To date, the CICP has paid out over $600,000.00 to victims and their families to assist with medical bills, property damage, loss of wages, and other expenses related to incidents of violent crime. The OAG was awarded a grant in August 2018 and now, for every local dollar awarded to crime victims, VOCA funding reimburses 60 cents. To learn more about the CICP, visit http://oagguam.org/victim-services/
The attorneys general coalition makes three recommendations to promote the sustainability of the Fund, and preserve access to programs and services:
● Redirect fines and fees from corporate deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the Fund: The Department of Justice increasingly uses deferred and non-prosecution agreements to resolve corporate misconduct. The AGs ask Congress to redirect these deposits to the Fund. In 2018 and 2019, recoveries resulting from these agreements were about $8 billion each year.
● Increase the rate of federal reimbursement to states for victim compensation programs: The Fund currently reimburses state programs that provide financial assistance to victims at a rate of 60 percent, the remainder usually being funded by fines and fees in state courts. The letter recommends Congress reimburse state programs at a rate of 75 percent.
● Extend the amount of time VOCA funds can be spent: VOCA requires recipients to spend grants within a four-year period. The coalition asks Congress to extend the period of funding so that state and local organizations can better plan and predict funding for long-term services.
To view the letter, click here.
AG Camacho also joined 43 attorneys general in a separate letter urging the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to include Edith’s Bill in COVID-19 relief legislation. It would amend VOCA to include victims of senior fraud as eligible for reimbursement by the CICP. Edith’s Bill, or the Edith Shorougian Senior Victims of Fraud Compensation Act (S. 3487/H.R. 7620) will also amend VOCA so that penalties and fines from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, which can include white collar criminal conduct against seniors, are deposited into the Crime Victims Fund. To view the letter, click here.