FY 2017 VOCA Funding
In September 2016, Congress enacted a Continuing Resolution (CR) which kept the federal government operating at its current level through December 9, 2016. On December 9, Congress extended the CR through April 29, 2016. Since state VOCA assistance grants cannot be determined until the enactment of a full-year spending bill, it is unlikely that state VOCA grants will be calculated or awarded until sometime next spring or summer.
Previous ActionsOn May 24, 2016, the full House Appropriations Committee marked up its FY 2017 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. The full Committee's FY 2017 VOCA cap is $2.737 billion although the Committee also adopted an amendment to earmark 5% of the cap for grants to tribal governments, similar to the Senate CJS bill. There are no other transfers or earmarks in the House bill as there are in the Senate bill (for VAWA and Inspector General). As a result, under the House approach, state VOCA victim assistance grants are estimated to be about 1.7 percent less than FY 2016 grants compared to the FY 2017 Senate bill which would result in a 9.4% decrease from FY 2016.
On May 18, 2016, the House Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations subcommittee recommended a FY 2017 VOCA cap of $2.737 billion without any transfers to non-VOCA programs or new earmarks. Although the Senate CJS bill has a larger total cap ($2.957 biillion), it also includes transfers and a new tribal set aside that totals $536.85 million. As a result, more funds would be available for state VOCA victim assistance grants under the House proposal than under the Senate bill.
On April 21, 2016, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2017 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bill which includes the Crime Victims Fund cap at $2.957 billion, which is $85 million less than the FY 2016 cap (but $957 million more than the Administration’s request). As happened in FY 2016, $379 million is transferred to the Office on Violence Against Women for VAWA programs. At its mark up, the Committee adopted an amendment introduced by Sen. Tester (D-MT) to carve out 5 percent of the annual CVF cap for “grants to Indian tribal governments to improve services and justice for victims of crime.”
Although the CJS report says that $2.578 billion will be “disbursed to States,” the Committee fails to include amounts used for other purposes, which includes: $10 million for the DOJ Inspector General’s Office, $85 million estimated for OJP management costs, Children’s Justice Act grants, federal set-asides for U.S. Attorneys, FBI and federal victim notification system, and OVC discretionary grants. It also, understandably, fails to include the $147.85 million that would be earmarked for tribal grants if the Tester amendment is eventually enacted. Thus, the net amount available for state grants (both state crime victim compensation and state victim assistance formula grants) is really closer to $2.1 billion. It is estimated that under the Senate CJS bill FY 2017 state VOCA assistance grants would be about 9.4 percent less than the amount awarded for the FY 2016 grants.
Pending 2017 VOCA Legislation
On January 4, 2017, Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA04) and Brendan Boyle (D-PA13) introduced H.R. 275, the "Fairness for Crime Victims Act of 2017," which would require that the amount made available from the Crime Victims Fund be no less than average amount deposited into the Fund over the previous three fiscal years. The text of the bill is available here.On February 2, 2017, Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX02) and Jim Costa (D-CA16) introduced H.R. 818, "To safeguard the Crime Victims Fund," which would require that that the Crime Victims Fund be used only for purposes authorized under the VOCA statute. See Rep. Ted Poe's Floor Remarks (including video).
In supporting these bills, NAVAA has requested that they be consolidated so that the annual 3-year average CVF cap be restricted to only those purposes authorized under the VOCA statute. NAVAA noted that recent proposals would simply transfer amounts out of the Fund for non-VOCA authorized purposes. In a January 18, 2017 letter to Reps. Perry and Boyle, NAVAA says that these "backdoor" carve outs violate the express statutory provision that the Fund be used only for VOCA authorized programs. "Allowing the Fund to be used for purposes not authorized under the VOCA statute creates a tempting opportunity to transform the Crime Victims Fund into a sizable revenue source for virtually any program."