Budget Deal Robs $1.5 Billion from Crime Victims

A member of the Baltimore Police Department walks past a police vehicle parked near the scene of a shooting, Monday, July 27, 2015, in Baltimore. Police said a male was shot in the chest near the epicenter of unrest in April following the funeral of Freddie Gray. Rioting and looting …
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The two-year budget deal announced late Monday includes small-print language that yanks $1.5 billion away from crime victims.

The funding is used to compensate victims of crime. A statement from the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators opposes the cuts and describes how the money is collected and used:

“Some 3.5 million crime victims every year depend on the thousands of domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, child abuse treatment programs, child advocacy centers, prosecutor- and law-enforcement victim service programs, support groups for survivors of homicide victims, drunken driving crashes and all the other programs that receive VOCA funding. These funds come from the Crime Victims Fund which comes not from U.S. taxpayers but from fines and monetary penalties paid by criminals convicted of federal crimes.”

Blair Bjellos , Rep. Ted Poe’s (R-TX) legislative assistant and the coordinator for the Victims’ Rights Caucus, called the provision within the budget deal “concerning.”

In a press release earlier this week, Bjellos stated:

“Today, as the budget agreement was released, we were alerted to an extremely concerning provision, in which $1.5 billion is taken from the Crime Victims Fund as an offset to the overall bill. Judge Poe and Congressman Costa, cochairs of the Victims’ Rights Caucus sent a letter to Speaker Boehner and Leader Pelosi expressing their concern and asking for this provision to removed.”

Poe and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) wrote in their letter to Boehner and Pelosi that it is “inappropriate” to use the money for crime victims to offset any other purpose, saying taking the $1.5 billion from the Crime Victims Fund violates the intent of the law.

“This provision in the budget agreement sets a terrible precedent and will lead to the depletion of a Fund that is intended to be sustained for some of the most vulnerable in our society,” the letter states.

The budget deal – negotiated with the White House and leaders from both parties in Congress – diverts $1.5 billion away from victims of crime.

Just six months ago, President Obama issued a statement in April during National Crime Victims’ Rights week saying:

“All crime victims have fundamental rights; however, many underserved populations face significant barriers to accessing the protections and assistance they deserve. That is why as my Administration has worked to bolster the rights, services, and support for all victims of crime, we have particularly focused on at-risk communities.”

He continued, “My Administration is committed to standing up for the rights of those affected by all types of crime, and we are taking action to stop crime before it happens.”

The budget deal is expected to be voted on later this week. The House Freedom Caucus – the group of conservative law makers who led the charge to remove House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) – came out in opposition of the budget deal.


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