Tester Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Ensure Montana Victims of Crime Have the Resources They Need to Get Back on Their Feet
Senator’s bill would fix issues that diminished the Crime Victims Fund balance, making an additional $4 to $7 billion available over next few years
As part of his continued efforts to ensure that Montana crime victim service organizations are able to continue helping survivors, U.S. Senator Jon Tester recently introduced bipartisan legislation to fix issues within the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) that have caused the Crime Victims Fund's (CVF) balance to dwindle significantly over recent years.
The CVF balance has fallen considerably since Fiscal Year 2018 as a result of the Department of Justice's (DOJ) increased use of deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, the monetary penalties of which are currently deposited into the Treasury's General Fund. Tester's Crime Victims Fund Sustainability Act would redirect penalties from these cases to the CVF, protecting its solvency by making available an additional $4-7 billion of non-taxpayer money over the next few years.
"Victims of violent crime in Montana rely on the critical services of our top-notch domestic violence shelters, victim-witness advocates, and other crime victim service groups to recover from trauma and get back on their feet," said Tester. "These organizations need the backing of the Crime Victims Fund to serve their communities, and without these resources, they won't be able to do nearly enough. With the increased use of deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements by the DOJ, Congress must adjust the Victims of Crimes Act to ensure our hard working victim advocates can keep helping Montana survivors."
Due to the rapidly diminishing balance in the CVF, victim services are already being cut in states across the country, and some programs and services may see close to a 100 percent cut within two years if Congress does not act. This is especially true in those rural and smaller jurisdictions where the CVF is the main source of funding. Tester's bill would fix this issue, making a change known as the "deposits fix" and ensure that the CVF is able to continue providing resources to organizations that are serving victims of violence.
In addition to providing this fix, Tester's Crime Victims Fund Sustainability Act would:
- Increase the percentage that state compensation programs are reimbursed by the federal government from 60 to 75 percent;
- Allow states to apply for a no-cost extension for VOCA assistance grants;
- Give states the ability to waive the 20 percent sub-grantee match requirements for VOCA assistance grants at their discretion, and provide additional flexibility for sub-grantees during COVID-19.
Tester has been working diligently to ensure that Montana victims of crime have the resources they need to get back on their feet. He recently secured $5.7 million for Montana victims of crime and has secured a 5 percent CVF set-aside for Tribes since 2018. He has also been a longtime supporter of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), cosponsoring the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019, and he has led the charge in the Senate to fight the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons crisis.