Cuts to Victims of Crime Act will have severe impact

Reductions in Victims of Crime Act Funding to Have Profound Consequences

In Ventura County, a crucial federal law known as the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) plays a significant role in supporting programs for victims of crime. This funding, entirely sourced from monetary penalties on federal offenders, is allocated to states and then distributed to various district attorney offices and nonprofit organizations nationwide. However, Ventura County is on the brink of losing over $2.3 million in VOCA funds annually without urgent financial assistance. This loss will severely affect services for victims of rape, domestic violence, human trafficking, and child abuse.

Despite a bipartisan effort in 2021 to ensure all penalties collected by the U.S. Department of Justice from criminal prosecutions are directed into VOCA, the fund continues to see a decline. This year, the expected allocation is $1.2 billion nationwide, marking a $700 million or 40% decrease from 2023. The National District Attorneys Association notes that federal criminal prosecutions and their associated fines are at their lowest in two decades, leading to significantly reduced contributions to the crime victim fund.

This downturn has dire implications at the local level. For instance, the district attorney’s office, Interface, and Coalition for Family Harmony have been informed that a VOCA-funded grant aimed at assisting farmworker, LGBTQ+, and human trafficking victims will be discontinued. This will result in an annual loss of over $280,000, affecting victim advocates, mental health counseling, and sexual assault survivor services. In January, it was revealed that the district attorney’s office would also lose elder abuse grant funds amounting to $217,000 annually. Consequently, victims over 65 and dependent adults will lack access to in-home assistance, counseling, victim advocates, and essential transportation services.

At Interface Children and Family Services, a 40% cut in VOCA funding, approximately $315,000 annually, will lead to over 100 child and adult victims losing critical support needed to escape violent situations and recover from their trauma.

Similarly, the Coalition for Family Harmony faces a 40% reduction in VOCA funding, translating to $550,000 in budget and staffing cuts. This will deny services to 116 victims and their families, jeopardizing the county’s sole rape crisis shelter.

At Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Ventura County, these cuts will disproportionately affect foster youth, reducing their funding by $250,000. This forces CASA to scale back services and face the possibility of program closure for 80 youth annually.

These funding cuts will severely impact the most vulnerable, historically marginalized, and underserved communities, who are least able to find services elsewhere.

To support these and other crime victims, we urge you to take two actions. First, contact your member of Congress to advocate for maintaining VOCA support at $1.9 billion annually, the 2023 funding level. Second, encourage your state legislators to back Assembly Bill 1956, a bill aimed at addressing gaps in federal VOCA funding, which has recently advanced through the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Ventura County boasts a robust and dynamic network of support for crime victims. Let’s unite to preserve this essential resource.

Erik Nasarenko, the elected District Attorney for Ventura County, Erik Sternad, the Executive Director of Interface Children & Family Services, Teresa Romney, the Executive Director for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Ventura County, and Caroline Prijatel Sutton, the Executive Director at Coalition for Family Harmony, are committed to this cause.