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Local nonprofits need Congress to save Crime Victims Fund

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Open Door announces housing expansion for people experiencing chronic homelessness

LUBBOCK, Texas (KJTV) - Lubbock nonprofits are calling on U. S. lawmakers to pass the “VOCA Fix Act,” which intends to stabilize the Crime Victims Fund.

The Crime Victims Fund was set up through the Victims of Crime Act, or VOCA, in 1984. It sends monetary penalties associated with federal criminal convictions to those providing resources to millions of crime victims across the nation.

In Lubbock, Open Door and Voice of Hope are only two of the organizations at risk of losing that funding.

VOCA funding has been cut by two-thirds, compared to four years ago. That’s because of an increase in the use of deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, sending those monetary penalties to the general treasury, instead of the Crime Victims Fund. The problem intensified last year because of COVID-19, as the pandemic delayed court hearings.

“This is again, funding that helps with people’s lives to allow for relocation, to allow for therapy, to really try to help kind of bring a little bit of restoration into their lives after they’ve been through such tremendous crimes,” Director of Survivor Housing with Open Door, Jaime Wheeler said.

These grants support Open Door’s Survivor Housing Program, which connects sex trafficking survivors with potentially life-saving resources.

“To be able to get the resources they need to rebuild their lives, to heal from what’s happened we need it to be passed now,” Wheeler said.

The “VOCA Fix Act” has been passed in the U. S. House of Representatives, but needs to be called to the Senate floor for a vote. It intends to redirect funding from deferred and non-prosecution agreements back to the Crime Victims Fund. It would also increase the federal contribution to state victim compensation funds by matching 75% of state funds, instead of the current 60%.

“We certainly aren’t shutting our doors by any stretch of the imagination, but when we start taking funding cuts it certainly could mean we have to start cutting services or maybe we aren’t able to reach as many people as we normally do,” Kristin Murray, Executive Director at Voice of Hope Rape Crisis Center said.

At Voice of Hope, a VOCA grant funds $100,000 for commercially sexually exploited youth, providing direct services to youth that have been trafficked.

“Our client database shows that our most significant age range is 17 and younger, and so if we aren’t giving these services to children and helping them in the restorative process, that’s going to affect the rest of their life,” Murray said.

Wheeler says if the VOCA Fix Act doesn’t get passed in this session, it could put many victims at risk, making them vulnerable to becoming victimized again.

Wheeler and Murray are asking you to contact senate leadership to get the act to the floor.

You can find more information on how to do that in this toolkit from the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators: https://navaa.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/VOCA-Senate-Day-of-Action-Toolkit-4-21-2021.pdf

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