Silver Spring, Md., November 22, 2021 — A broad group of over thirty crime victim programs has asked Governor Hogan to use state funding to prevent devastating cuts to core services for victims of crime. Federal Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funding supports services for crime victims all across the state of Maryland. Funds are used for services such as counseling, advocacy, domestic violence shelters, child advocacy centers, support for rape victims at the hospital, and victim-witness support in court. Many types of crime victims receive support including sexual assault survivors, victims of elder abuse, human trafficking survivors, domestic violence victims, abused and neglected children, family members of homicide victims, and others.
Funds for these critical services will be drastically reduced next year. These funds are not taxpayer dollars. VOCA was funded through fines imposed on defendants in federal criminal cases. This pool of funding was reduced when federal prosecution strategy moved from seeking convictions to entering into non-prosecution agreements. The VOCA Fix bill was enacted with bi-partisan support this summer and will replenish the pool of federal funding that has long supported vital victim services. This process will take an estimated 2-3 years.
The letter asks Governor Hogan to fill in the temporary funding gap as part of the state budget that he will introduce in January 2022. The victim services providers pointed to Maryland’s historic budget surplus, noting there are currently $2.5 billion in excess funds and increased revenue projections exceeding $2 billion for the current and upcoming fiscal years. The temporary gap in federal VOCA funding is estimated to be $30-40 million and can be easily covered by existing resources.
The services at jeopardy are vital for survivors of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation. Survivors are dealing with economic instability, homelessness, job loss, mental health needs, amplified trauma, and isolation. The COVID crisis has led not only to an increase in the number of survivors seeking services, but to an increase in the number of services survivors seek. Child sexual abuse victims are especially vulnerable as they are cut off from activities and the adults who would have reported suspected abuse prior to the crisis. Perpetrators, on the other hand, are emboldened by the pandemic. They are using the pandemic to gain or renew access to victims, intimidate survivors into silence, and interfere with survivors' attempts to seek safety and justice.
“It shocks the conscience to think that the Governor would allow Maryland’s victim services safety net to fail,” said Lisae C Jordan, Executive Director at the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault, “When the state fails to prevent sex crimes, the least we can do is provide survivors with the support they need.”