FY 2018 VOCA Funding

Congress has extended the continuing resolution through January 19, 2018 and in doing so forestalled a partial federal government shutdown and delayed implementation of the statutory pay-as-you-go (SPAYGO) requirements. Under SPAYGO, mandatory spending programs would have to be reduced (or eliminated) to offset the projected increase in the federal deficit resulting from the recently enacted tax bill. Because the size of the projected deficit (up to $1.5 trillion or more over 10 years), SPAYGO cuts could prevent any spending from the Crime Victims Fund, among other federal mandatory spending programs. The extended CR delays implementation of SPAYGO cuts until January 19, 2018 which gives Congress time to waive those requirements as indicated by Congressional leadership.

For VOCA, FY 2018 spending cannot be determined until Congress enacts a spending bill for the entire fiscal year. So far, the House Appropriations Committee is recommending a FY 2018 VOCA cap of $4.632 billion, an 80 percent increase over the FY 2017 VOCA cap. While the Committee is not recommending any transfers of Crime Victim Fund to programs not authorized under the VOCA statute, the Committee would allocate 5 percenet "for grants to Indian tribal governments to improve services and justice for victims of crime."

The Senate Appropriations Committee is recommending a FY 2018 VOCA cap of $3.636 billion, a 41 percent increase over the FY 2017 VOCA cap which would include 5 percent "to the Office for Victims of Crime for grants, consistent with the requirements of the Victims of Crime Act, to Indian tribes to improve services for victims of crime." The Senate bill would also transfer another $10 million to the Office of Inspector General for oversight and auditing purposes and $379 million to the Office on Violence Against Women.

The Administration released its FY 2018 budget proposals on May 23, 2017. The proposed budget contains some significant provisions affecting VOCA and the Crime Victims Fund. While these proposals may have a minimal immediate net impact on the amount of state VOCA assistance grants, the policies, if adopted, will likely have major long-term adverse implications for VOCA-funded victim services.

Some of the major Crime Victims Fund proposals are:

  • Permanent rescission (removal) of $1.31 billion from the Fund balance (“above the cap”). The Administration says the reason for this is "deficit reduction," even though the VOCA statute says unobligated Fund amounts "shall remain in the Fund for obligation in future years...".
  • Increase the cap from $2.573 billion to $3 billion, but that includes, among other things:
    • Continuation of $10 million for DOJ Inspector General (this would bring total OIG funding to $40 million)
    • Increase transfer for VAWA programs from $326 million to $445 million (93% of total OVW programs)
    • New 5% set aside for grants to tribes ($150 million)
    • Using the CVF for several OJP and OJJDP programs previously funded from general tax appropriations ($165 million)
    • 3% ($90 million) set aside for OJP research, evaluation and statistics (not previously authorized from CVF)

By permanently removing amounts retained in the Fund and raising the cap in order to fund non-VOCA programs, the request poses a serious challenge to the Fund’s long-term viability.  There are no assurances that Fund deposits will continue to sustain the current level of victim services thereby undermining Congress’s original intention of capping annual Fund obligations to ensure a stable source of funding for VOCA programs. By expanding the use of the Fund to support additional programs not authorized under the VOCA statute, it opens the door even further to use the Fund to pay for other programs; the more additional programs come to rely on the Fund, the less becomes available for state VOCA victim assistance programs.