FY 2017 VOCA Funding

On May 1, 2017, Congress released its spending bill for the remainder of fiscal year 2017 (which ends September 30).  The bill reduces the VOCA cap from $3.042 billion to $2.573 bill which, according to my estimate, means that state VOCA assistance grants will be reduced by about 17.2% from the FY 2016 grants ($1.84 billion down from $2.2 billion nationally).  Congress also transferred $326 million to VAWA and another $10 million to the Inspector General’s Office from the Fund. It appears there is no separate carve out from the Fund for tribal funding (which were in proposed versions of both the Senate and House bills). Unlike previous years, there is also no specific funding or authorization for Vision 21.  Appropriators noted that

The agreement includes a limitation on obligations from the Crime Victims Fund of $2,573,000,000 as stipulated in section 510 of this Act, which is the three-year average of collections into the fund. As the limitation has been significantly increased from $745,000,000 in fiscal year 2014, collections have slowed based on the most recent estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, resulting in balances in the fund declining. The agreement to base the limitation on average collections will help ensure solvency of the fund.

On 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 3% less than FY 2016 grants (compared to the FY 2017 Senate bill which would result in an 11% 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 ($2.857 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 22, 2016, the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday marked up its FY 2017 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) appropriations bill.  The Committee approved a 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 $2.138 billion.  It is estimated that under the Senate CJS bill FY 2017 state VOCA assistance grants would be about 9 percent less than the amount estimated for the FY 2016 grants.