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Ohio AG Dave Yost Sounds Alarm On Victim Services Funding

When the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) fund was set up in 1984, it was meant to be a lasting resource for crime victims, with a dedicated funding stream outside of partisan budget fights – part of every fine collected in a federal criminal conviction went into it.

Every year, those federal VOCA funds go to state attorneys general to disburse to support groups that assist victims with counseling, attending court, paying medical bills, providing child care and making up for lost wages.

But a drop in federal white collar prosecutions since the Great Recession and the expanded use of pretrial settlements in white collar criminal cases have put a dent in the fund.

Between 2018 and 2020, there was a 67 percent drop in VOCA funds awarded to Ohio, from $117 million to $58 million.

“If we don’t get help in the next year or two, you’re going to see significant parts of the state that just don’t have any access to service,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said.

Yost and 52 Ohio county prosecutors recently sent a letter to legislators in Columbus, calling for money in the next state budget to make up for the loss of federal funding.

“VOCA grants are the primary source of federal funding for thousands of victim service providers across the nation, including programs serving victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and human trafficking,” the letter said.

State funding in the next budget would be a temporary solution while the federal government considers a bill to fix the revenue source, Yost said.

The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021 would send money collected from what are known as “non-prosecution agreements” or “deferred prosecution agreements” into the victims’ fund.

Under a deferred prosecution agreement, the U.S. Department of Justice reaches an agreement before going to trial, meaning whatever fine they negotiate isn’t covered by the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 and doesn’t contribute to the fund. Because most of the money collected by the federal government is from white collar crimes, a single non-prosecution agreement can make a substantial difference in funding.

A review by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators found that just 73 companies accounted for two-thirds of the $36 billion that have gone into the VOCA fund since 1985.

That list is made up of $100 million-plus fines paid by companies like Volkswagen, Pfizer and JP Morgan Chase.

The list compiled by the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators of 73 fines that make up two-thirds of VOCA funding since its beginning.

The VOCA administrators association has been campaigning for this fix to federal funding for years, but the VOCA Fix bill is currently waiting for the House Judiciary Committee to hold hearings.

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