Crime victims may get fewer services as federal aid drops. States weigh how to help.

Crime victims may get fewer services as federal aid drops. States weigh how to help.

Groups that assist crime victims across the United States are bracing for significant financial pain after the amount available from a major federal victim services fund plunged $700 million this year.

Congress recently lowered spending to $1.2 billion from the fund, which provides grants to nonprofit and local programs across the country.

This latest round of cuts has sparked 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 of these organizations and agencies now expect to have to close locations, lay off staff, and cut back on services.

Meanwhile, the drop in dollars has many experts and advocates rethinking the current, 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 any taxpayer dollars.

Karrie Delaney, director of federal affairs for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 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. It “also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice,” according to its website.

“I think what’s important from RAINN’s perspective is the actual impact that those fluctuations have on the survivors that we support and organizations and service providers across the country,” Delaney said.

When the federal cap decreases, she said, organizations that support crime victims often turn to state and local governments to make up the gap. And a lot of the times there isn’t enough money to do that.

Victim services providers say 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, the chief of federal advocacy with 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.’”

You can read the full article at the New Hampshire Bulletin.