04.14.08

National Crime Victims’ Week, April 13-20, 2008

Mr. LEAHY. Yesterday marked the official beginning of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.  Since 1981, communities in Vermont and across the nation have observed this week with candlelight vigils and public rallies to renew our commitment to crime victims and their families.  It is vitally important that we recognize the needs of crime victims and their family members, and work together to promote victims’ rights and services.          

We have been able to make some progress during the past 27 years to provide victims with greater rights and assistance.  In particular, I was honored to support the passage of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA), Public Law 98-473, which established the Crime Victims Fund.  The Crime Victims Fund allows the Federal Government to provide grants to State crime victim compensation programs, direct victim assistance services, and services to victims of federal crimes.  Nearly 90 percent of the Crime Victims Fund is used to award victim assistance formula grants and provide State crime victim compensation.  These VOCA-funded victim assistance programs serve nearly four million crime victims each year, including victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, and drunk driving, as well as survivors of homicide victims.  Our VOCA-funded compensation programs have helped hundreds of thousands of victims of violent crime. 

The Crime Victims Fund is the nation’s premier vehicle for supporting victims’ services. It is important to understand that the Crime Victims Fund does not receive a dime from tax revenue or appropriated funding.  Instead, it is made up of criminal fines, forfeited bail bonds, penalties, and special assessments.

In 1995, after the Oklahoma City bombing, I proposed and Congress passed the Victims of Terrorism Act of 1995.  Among other important matters, this legislation authorized the Office for Victims of Crime at the Department of Justice to set aside an emergency reserve as part of the Crime Victims Fund to serve as a “rainy day” resource to supplement compensation and assistance grants to States to provide emergency relief in the wake of an act of terrorism or mass violence that might otherwise overwhelm the resources of a State’s crime victims compensation program and crime victims assistance services.

Over the last several yeas we have made sure that the Crime Victims Fund would remain dedicated to crime victims.  We made sure that it would serve as a “rainy day” fund and reserve to help meet crime victims’ needs.  The “rainy day” fund has been used to make up the difference between annual deposits and distributions three times during the past seven years.  It provides security and continuity to crime victims programs and to our State partners.

 

Since FY 2000, Congress has set a cap on annual obligations from the Crime Victims Fund.  I have worked to ensure that the cap has never resulted in resources being lost to the Crime Victims Fund.  I believe we need to increase the cap.  With the failure of the Bush administration crime prevention policies, crime began to rise under Attorney General Gonzales.  Crime victims, the States and service providers need more assistance.

 

Instead of taking that salutary action, the Bush administration is proposing to raid the Crime Victims Fund and zero it out.  The future of the Crime Victims Fund is in danger because the Bush administration has proposed rescinding all amounts remaining in the Crime Victims Fund at the end of FY 2009-- just cleaning it out and leaving the cupboard bare.  That would leave the Crime Victims Fund with a zero balance going into FY 2010 and create a disastrous situation for providers of victims' services.  That is wrong. 

 

Over the last few years, we have successfully blocked the Bush administration’s past attempts to raid the Crime Victims Fund.  This is not a cache of money from which this administration should try to reduce the budget deficits it has created.  It has turned a $5 trillion budget surplus into a $9.4 trillion debt.  Its annual deficits run into the hundreds of millions.  It is wrong to try to pay for its failed fiscal policies by emptying out the Crime Victims Fund.   These resources are set aside to assist victims of crime. 

 

In order to preserve the Crime Victims Fund once again, Senator Crapo and I, as well as 25 other Senators, sent a letter on April 4, 2008, to the Senate Appropriations Committee asking that the Committee to oppose the administration’s proposal to empty the Crime Victims Fund.  We asked the Committee, instead, to permit unobligated funds to remain in the Crime Victims Fund, in accordance with current law, to be used for needed programs and services that are so important to victims of crime in the years ahead.     

 

We need to renew our national commitment to crime victims.  The Senate can help by recognizing the importance of the Crime Victims’ Fund and supporting its essential role in helping crime victims and their families meet critical expenses, recover from the horrific crimes they endured, and move forward with their lives. I urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to honor our longstanding commitment to crime victims by working together to recognize and support victims of crime, and to preserve the Crime Victims Fund. 

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