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Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Crime Victims Fund: Federal Support for Victims of Crime

Lisa N. Sacco
Analyst in Illicit Drugs and Crime Policy

In 1984, the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) was established by the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA, P.L. 98-473) to provide funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs. Since 1984, VOCA has been amended several times to support additional victim-related activities. These amendments established within the CVF (1) discretionary grants for private organizations, (2) the Federal Victim Notification System, (3) funding for victim assistance staff within the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Executive Office of U.S. Attorneys, (4) funding for the Children’s Justice Act Program, and (5) assistance and compensation for victims of terrorism.

In 1988, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) was formally established within the Department of Justice (DOJ) to administer the CVF. As authorized by VOCA, the OVC awards CVF money through grants to states, local units of government, individuals, and other entities. The OVC also distributes CVF money to specially designated programs, such as the Children’s Justice Act Program and the Federal Victim Notification System.

Deposits to the CVF come from criminal fines, forfeited appearance bonds, penalties and special assessments collected by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, federal courts, and Federal Bureau of Prisons. Since 2002, Congress has allowed gifts, bequests, and donations from private entities to be deposited into the CVF.

When the CVF was created in 1984, Congress placed a cap on how much money could be deposited into the CVF each year. Congress eliminated the cap for deposits in 1993. In FY2000, Congress established a cap on the amount that would be available for distribution in a fiscal year to ensure the stability of funds for crime victims programs and activities. Since 2000, Congress has established the yearly CVF cap as a part of DOJ’s annual appropriation. For the last several years, Congress has set the CVF distribution cap at $705 million.

In considering the CVF allocation and future caps, there are several issues on which policymakers may deliberate. Congress may consider whether to adjust the manner in which the CVF is allocated, amend VOCA to accommodate additional victim activities or groups, adjust the cap and allow use of the CVF for grant programs other than those explicitly authorized by VOCA, or make other adjustments to the CVF cap—such as eliminate the cap altogether.

Date of Report: March 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 17
Order Number: R42672
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