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Crime Victim Aid Cutbacks Expected Across U.S. Amid Federal Shortfall

Groups that help crime victims are bracing for significant financial pain after the money available from a major federal victim services fund plunged $700 million this year. Congress lowered spending to $1.2 billion from the fund, which provides grants to nonprofit and local programs across the U.S. The latest round of cuts has caused widespread concern among district attorney’s offices, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, child advocacy centers and law enforcement agencies that offer victim support services. Many organizations expect to a close locations, lay off staff and cut back on services, reports Stateline. The drop in dollars has many experts and advocates rethinking the uncertain system of helping crime victims. How much federal money is available every year is determined by a complex three-year average of court fees, fines and penalties that have accumulated — a number that has plummeted by billions during the past six years. The fund does not receive taxpayer dollars.

Karrie Delaney of the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), said the slowdown of court cases during the COVID-19 pandemic and the last administration not prosecuting as many corporate cases has affected the fund more than usual. RAINN is the country’s largest anti-sexual-violence organization. It operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE) alongside local organizations and runs the U.S. Defense Department’s Safe Helpline. When the federal cap decreases, organizations that support crime victims often turn to state and local governments to make up the gap. Often, there isn’t enough money to do that. Smaller groups or branches, particularly those in rural towns or counties, are at an especially high risk of closing because of the expected cutbacks. Many rely solely on federal dollars. Shakyra Diaz of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, which advocates for crime victims, said many groups are “seriously in a situation where they may have to close their doors, they may have to cut services, they may have to cut staff, they may have to tell crime victims, ‘I cannot help you right now. You have to wait six months.’” In at least three states — California, Colorado and Maine — state legislators have proposed bills that would create new avenues for state-based funding for victim services.


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