What is H.R. 1652?
(Updated August 25, 2021)
This bill was enacted on July 22, 2021
This bill would require the Dept. of Justice (DOJ) to deposit all monetary penalties, including from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, into the Crime Victims Fund (CVF). This would create a new source of revenue for Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants, which are the primary source of federal funding for victim services providers nationwide.
Additionally, this bill would give states more funding and flexibility in their use of VOCA funds by bolstering state victim compensation funds by increasing the federal grant calculation for funding to victim compensation programs to 75% (it is currently 60%) of state-funded payouts. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this bill would also allow states to request no-cost extensions from the Attorney General to ensure that they can thoughtfully and effectively distribute victim service grants without penalty (this is currently allowed for other DOJ formula grant programs). It would also give state compensation programs flexibility to waive the requirement to promote victim cooperation with law enforcement.
This bill would also give state VOCA Administrators more leeway in distributing funds by:
Requiring state VOCA Administrators to waive the 20% match requirement for victim service subgrantees during the COVID-19 crisis and for one year after the pandemic ends;
Allowing state VOCA Administrators to wave subgrantee match requirements at their discretion; and
- Requiring state VOCA Administrators to develop and publish policies and procedures for obtaining waivers of subgrantee match requirements.
Finally, this bill would instruct the Office for Victims of Crime not to deduct restitution payments recovered by state victim compensation funds when calculating victim compensation awards.
Argument in favor
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants are an important source of funds for victim service providers and state victim compensation programs. Their precipitous decline in funding over the past four years has dramatically affected the availability of critical support services for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other crimes. Increasing funding sources for VOCA grants will stabilize the fund and ensure that victim services organizations and state victim compensation programs can continue to do their important work.
Currently, money in the Crime Victims Fund can be redirected to other uses, undermining the effectiveness of the fund in supporting victim services organizations and programs. Rather than simply adding more money to the CVF, Congress should both add money to the CVF and close the appropriations loophole that allows money meant to help victims of crimes to be spent on other priorities.
Crime victims; victim services programs; state victim compensation and support programs; states; the Dept. of Justice; fines and monetary penalties paid to the Dept. of Justice under deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements; the Crime Victims Fund (CVF); and funds supporting Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grants.
Cost of H.R. 1652
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that this bill would increase direct spending by $7.5 billion over the ten-year period from 2021-2031.
In-Depth: House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) introduced this bill to shore up funding for the Crime Victims Fund Act (CVF) and prevent future cuts to already-diminished federal victim service grants:
“The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act ensures that programs and services assisting victims of crime are fully funded and better supported. The need for this legislation cannot be understated, as deposits into the Crime Victims Fund have continued to decline, a problem only worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of the bipartisan and bicameral collaboration that has made this piece of legislation possible, and I am hopeful that it will be signed into law.”
In a March 16, 2021 statement on the House floor, Rep. Nadler said:
“The 'VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act' would support vital victim service programs by preventing future cuts to already diminished federal victim service grants… Over the past several years, however, deposits into the CVF have dropped significantly, leading to corresponding cuts in grants to victim service providers. This is, in part, because the federal government has increased its reliance in recent years on deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, the penalties from which are not deposited into the CVF. This legislation would shore up funding for this critical fund by requiring DOJ to deposit penalties from these deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements into the CVF, in addition to the funds currently deposited from other sources. Not only does this legislation ensure that the CVF is more financially stable, it would also make much needed improvements to victim compensation and services. For example, it would increase the statutory amount awarded to victim compensation programs and it expands the range of victims eligible for compensation.”
Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL), who is the sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, adds:
“Our bill would stabilize the depleted fund by redirecting monetary penalties from deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements to the victims and service providers that desperately need help. The reduced deposits into the fund have already had a devastating impact. Victim assistance grants have been reduced by more than $600 million in 2021 and more cuts are looming if we don't do something. Advocates across the state of Illinois and across the country have reached out and shared what these cuts would mean for their agencies and the victims they serve. Every day that goes by, we miss an opportunity to help replenish this fund. In 2021, the fund has already missed out on approximately $400 million in deposits… Imagine how much more money the fund may lose if we don't do something.”
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) supports this legislation. In a July 13, 2021 action alert, the organization said:
“This critical legislation will prevent devastating cuts to federal funding for victim service programs through the Victims of Crime Act (“VOCA”)... The situation is extreme! Federal grants to victim services through the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) have been cut by two-thirds in the last four years. Congress can fix this by ensuring federal financial penalties from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements are treated the same way as penalties resulting from criminal convictions - that they go to serve and compensate crime victims.”
In an August 2020 letter to Congressional leadership, all 56 state and territory attorneys general in the U.S. agreed on the steps that Congress should take to stabilize the CVF. Redirecting funds from deferred and non-prosecution agreements to the fund, increasing the rate of federal reimbursement, and extending the amount of time in which funds can be spent — all of which are included in this legislation — were among the recommendations outlined in the letter.
This legislation passed the House on a 384-38 vote with the support of 38 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 23 Democrats and 15 Republicans. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), has 62 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including 40 Democrats, 21 Republicans, and one Independent.
Sen. Durbin has brought his legislation to the floor twice to ask for unanimous consent to pass the bill, but Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) — who opposes this legislation — has objected both times. Although Sen. Toomey supports the idea of helping victim services organizations by adding another non-taxpayer revenue stream to the CVF, he also wants to end a longstanding appropriations practice that allows money in the CVF to be diverted for other uses. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Shumer (D-NY) is asking the Senate to agree to hold a vote on the VOCA fix and also allow a vote on Sen. Toomey’s amendment.
Of Note: VOCA grants are the primary source of federal funding for victim service providers across the country. These include programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking, and drunk driving. VOCA grants also fund victim compensation, including paying medical bills, covering lost wages, and paying for funeral costs.
VOCA grants are not taxpayer funded: they are paid out of the Crime Victims Fund (CVF), which is funded by federal criminal monetary penalties. Over the past several years, deposits into the CVF have dropped, leading to corresponding cuts in grants to victim service providers. Consequently, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that federal grants to victim services through VOCA have been cut by two-thirds in the last four years.
Sponsoring Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Floor Remarks
House Judiciary Committee Press Release
CBO Cost Estimate
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) (In Favor)
National Association of Attorneys General Letter (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / KatarzynaBialasiewicz)
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