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Bill to protect Crime Victims’ Fund from Sequestration

Reps. Jim Costa and Ted Poe, co-chairs of the Congressional Crime Victims Caucus,just introduced H.R. 2238, which would exempt the Crime Victims Fund from sequestration. It is very important to encourage members of Congress to sign on as co-sponsors.

There has been a recent, and perhaps important, change in how sequestration may affect VOCA.  The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is responsible for determining how sequestration is calculated, originally based the projected 2014 sequestration on the Administration’s proposed VOCA cap of$800 million.  OMB subsequently decided it had made a “computational error” in calculating the sequestration for the Crime Victims Fund.  Instead of basing it on just the VOCA cap, it decided that sequestration should be based on the entire amount in the Fund, which it is projecting at $11.431 billion.  That would bring the amount of the Fund’s sequestration in 2014 to $832 million.  It is not clear at this time what, exactly, this change might mean for the specific VOCA cap.  It may not have any direct impact on the amount of VOCA cap itself, since this might simply reduce the overall Fund balance “above the cap” and thus the amount that appropriators have available to offset other spending. Nevertheless, sequestration effectively reduces the amount of money that would otherwise be available to fund victim services (not just VOCA, but VAWA and other DOJ programs).

Exempting the Crime Victims Fund from sequestration would be a very important step and makes a lot of sense:

1.     Since all the money in the Fund comes from already collected federal criminal fines and penalties and not from tax dollars, it really has no direct effect on the nation’s debt (no money has to be borrowed to pay for VOCA).

2.    Because, by law, all money in the Fund not obligated in any fiscal year remains in the Fund, sequestration merely delays when that money can be used for victim services and does not ultimately reduce overall federal spending. Victim assistance services delayed are victim assistance services denied.

3.    Victim assistance services need those funds now!  State victim assistance grants are 30 percent less, in real, inflation-adjusted dollars, than the grants in 2000.  Local programs are reducing staff,limiting hours and services and in some cases closing their doors because of inadequate funding. According to OVC reports, 630,000 fewer crime victims received VOCA-funded assistance in 2012 than in 2007.

4.    Congress has already exempted from sequestration other, similar types of federal programs funded through special, non-tax funded accounts dedicated for specific purposes, such as the Motor Carrier Safety Grants or Grants-in-Aid for Airports.  Victim services are certainly entitled to similar treatment.

Please contact your member of Congress and ask them to sign on as co-sponsors of (and support) H.R. 2238.

If you don’t know your Congress Member’s contact information, please click here to find your Congress Member.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT AND ACTION!

Click here to track the bill’s progress.