Joined By Vermont Victims’ Advocates, Leahy Announces $8.7 Million For State’s Crime Victims And Victims Of Domestic And Sexual Assault

. . . Tripling Of Support For Crime Victims Follows Leahy’s Efforts To Lift Cap On Crime Victims Fund

BURLINGTON, Vt. (FRIDAY, Oct. 9, 2015) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), a former prosecutor and longtime champion for crime victims and victims of domestic violence, Friday announced that Vermont will receive more than $8.7 million from the U.S. Department of Justice to support victims of crime and enhance programs that serve survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

The funding includes a three-fold increase to the Vermont Center for Crime Victims Services (VCCVS), which will receive $4.8 million in Victims of Crime Awards in Fiscal Year 2015 appropriations.  Leahy, the Ranking Member and previous Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and also the senior-most member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, led the effort to substantially increase such funding by raising the cap on the Crime Victims Fund within the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  These funds provide direct aid to crime victims, helping with emergency shelter, transportation and legal assistance, as well as compensation for expenses such as hospital bills, burial costs and other restitution.  The fund is financed by criminal fines and penalties, not taxpayer dollars.  While the fund’s reserves have significantly grown in recent years, the previous cap on the distribution of such funds limited their reach.

Leahy said:  “This funding honors our commitment to ensuring that Vermonters victimized by crime are treated with the help, the care, and the dignity and respect that they need and deserve.  Victims should not have to worry about how to pay for medical or dental expenses, or how to cover for lost wages when they are injured.  They should not be victimized twice.”

The funding announced Friday by Leahy also includes $3.9 million in eight grants to domestic and sexual violence programs around the state, including awards for transitional housing, legal assistance and enhancing services for LGBT victims.  Leahy – author of landmark legislation enacted in 2013 that strengthened the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and renewed its charter, including these grant programs – also led the fight in that bill for inclusion of all victims, regardless of immigration status, sexual orientation or tribal affiliations.

Leahy made the announcement in Burlington City Hall’s Contois Auditorium, where he was joined by Judy Rex, executive director of VCCVS, and Karen Tronsgard-Scott, executive director of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Rex said:  “This federal funding to support victims of crime has remained relatively flat for nearly 15 years.  Coupled with the Center’s declining state revenues, it has been very challenging to maintain services to crime victims.  We now have the opportunity to do more than level-fund programs and services, and expand services to better meet the needs of crime victims.”

Tronsgard-Scott said:  “This funding restores some of the cuts to funding for services for victims of domestic and sexual violence.  Organizations that serve their communities will be able to replace some of the nearly two dozen advocates whose positions have been cut over the past five years, and to initiate new and innovative approaches to making communities safer.”

The $8.7 million breaks down as follows:

Victim of Crime Awards:  Five grants totaling $4.8 million to the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services, up from $1.6 million in 2014.  In addition to providing direct services and compensation to victims, the funds will support victim advocates who work in state’s attorneys offices.

Violence Against Women Awards: Eight grants totaling $3.9 million for domestic and sexual violence programs.  In addition to VCCVS and the Vermont Network, recipients include Circle Inc. of Barre ($444,392, to continue work with local police on lethality assessment and trainings); Womensafe in Middlebury ($753,166 to expand services in Addison County and Rochester); and two grants to Voices Against Violence and their partner organizations (enhancing legal services, including direct representation for up to 200 clients; and expanding transitional housing in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties).

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