Justice Department Extends Tribal Crime Victims Fund Application Deadline After Tester Push
Senator vows to ensure funding is allocated after pushing Attorney General to improve Tribal grant application process
(U.S. Senate) - In response to low numbers of Native American Tribes receiving grants through the Victims of Crime Act because of excessive red tape, U.S. Senator Jon Tester successfully led a bipartisan letter that pressured the Department of Justice (DOJ) to extend and improve the application process for funding through the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) set aside for Tribes.
Currently, more than four in five American Indians and Alaska Natives have experienced some form of violence in their lifetimes. According to the DOJ, women in these communities are almost twice as likely than the general population to need victim resources, even though they are 2.5 times less likely to have access to them. Tester's letter followed the announcement that only 59 Tribes applied for CVF grants this year-compared to 195 the year before-due to the DOJ burying applications to the grant funding within a larger Tribal grant solicitation. Tribes also raised concerns about the lack of DOJ outreach, arbitrary caps on grants, and confusion over application deadlines and requirements.
"Native American communities face some of the highest rates of crime in this country," Tester said. "The Justice Department's failure to give Tribes the proper access to the Crime Victims Fund is preventing our communities from getting the tools they need to adequately address violence in Indian Country. An extension of the application deadline is a good step, but I'll be holding them accountable to ensure this funding goes out the door quickly and appropriately."
Following Tester's recent push, the DOJ extended the application deadline to August 15, 2019 to allow more Tribes to request funding. Tester also asked Attorney General William Barr multiple other questions involving the CVF Set-Aside for Tribes-allocated at 5% of total awards-and why they are not being issued to their fullest extent. These questions have yet to be answered by the Administration.
Tester secured the CVF Tribal Set-aside in the 2018 and 2019 government funding bills. He also reintroduced his Securing Urgent Resources Vital to Indian Victim Empowerment (SURVIVE) Act to make the 5% set-aside permanent.
Tester is a relentless advocate for helping curb violence in Indian Country, particularly against women. He is calling on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Republican Leadership to bring up and pass the 2019 Violence Against Women Act to ensure that Tribes have the authority to bring perpetrators to justice and provide survivors with the resources they need to be successful. Last week, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee moved forward with five Tester-backed bills that aim to curb violence in Indian Country.
During a week of advocacy last month, Tester delivered a speech on the Senate floor calling on his colleagues to take action against the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) crisis and pressed BIA officials on what the agency has done to improve its response to cases of violence against Native women. Tester also successfully petitioned the government's top watchdog to conduct a full review of how federal agencies respond to MMIW cases and recommend solutions based on their findings.
Read Tester's letter to Attorney General Barr HERE.