NEW YORK (November 19, 2015) – Safe Horizon’s CEO, Ariel Zwang made the following statement on the recent proposal between the White House and Congress that will eliminate $1.5 billion from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund:
In a shortsighted effort to reach a budget agreement, the White House and Congress are—astonishingly—proposing to eliminate $1.5 billion from a dedicated funding source that provides essential services to victims of crime across our country. The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fund is funded entirely by federal criminal fines and financial penalties, and not taxpayer money. Over the last 30 years, this Fund has directed over $14 billion to help survivors of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault and other crimes receive the assistance they need to rebuild their lives. It may sound like a lot, but much more is needed, so the proposed elimination is unacceptable.
Over the last two years, Safe Horizon and advocates across the country successfully persuaded Congress to increase the annual distribution from the Fund from $750 million to $2.7 billion. This additional funding enhanced the ability of service providers to respond quickly and effectively to victims of crime, and also created a long-overdue opportunity to provide desperately needed programming to underserved populations, including older adults and young men of color harmed by crime.
The proposed cut of $1.5 billion will strip this funding away from local communities and will increase the risk that our Community Programs, Child Advocacy Centers and other programs may have to turn away victims of crime in need of assistance. This means that victims of child abuse, sexual assault, other violent assaults, and a host of other crimes will not get the basic assistance they so desperately need. Not only does this proposed cut violate the congressionally mandated use of the Fund, but it will defund critical front-line services for children and families who rely on Safe Horizon for counseling, court advocacy and connections to shelter, housing and other resources.
Safe Horizon stands with thousands of survivors and advocates across the country who staunchly oppose balancing the federal budget on the backs of crime victims. We strongly urge the White House and Congress to immediately restore this critical funding, and not short-change victims of crime who are seeking justice and healing for the sake of a hasty budget decision.