FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: Friday, October 1, 2021
VICTIM SERVICES FUNDING SLASHED DESPITE MASSIVE STATE BUDGET SURPLUS
LANHAM, MD – On Friday September 24, 2021, the Maryland victim service provider community, who rely on Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) federal funding, learned that they face an estimated 20% funding cut for the upcoming grant year which begins on October 1, 2021. This dramatic loss of funding follows victim service funding cuts of over 11 million dollars for the 2021 fiscal year. The Governor’s Office of Crime Prevention and Youth and Victim Services administers the grant money.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, victim service providers never shut down and continued to meet the needs of crime victims including victims of child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, gun violence, and community violence. “A cut like this will mean that local domestic violence service providers will have to lay-off staff and reduce services right at a time when they are most needed. If this drop off in federal funding is not ameliorated in some way it will be disastrous for all crime victims including victims of domestic violence,” said Jennifer Pollitt Hill, Interim Executive Director of the Maryland Network Against Domestic Violence.
“Rape crisis and sexual assault programs in Maryland are seeing both increased numbers of cases and increased complexity of cases,” said Lisae C. Jordan, Executive Director & Counsel of the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Victim service providers all work together to make the State safer and to respond to crime victims needing help by providing emergency housing, counseling services, and legal assistance. We need funding to compensate the staff that provide these crucial services.”
Swift action by the Governor is necessary or victim service providers will not have the staff or capacity to meet the increased demand for victim services in Maryland. With a reported 2.5-billion-dollar budget surplus the State should be well-positioned to restore victim service providers to 2019 funding levels. “Advocates for crime victims have been warning for over a year that the State faced a potential crisis in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding,” said Jordan. “Fortunately, the General Assembly placed limits on the State’s ability to cut these grants but the decision of whether to fill in the remaining gap is up to the Governor.”
The U.S. Congress passed the VOCA Fix bill which requires funds collected by the Federal Government under deferred and non-prosecution agreements to be deposited into the Crime Victims Fund. However, it will take several years for the funds to be replenished and distributed to states. “Maryland’s victims cannot wait the years it will take for the federal dollars raised by fixing VOCA to reach victim service providers,” said Pollitt Hill. “The Maryland General Assembly fortunately took necessary steps to stabilize funding during the pandemic and its continuing aftermath, but more is still needed. Victim service providers need the State to intervene in this funding crisis so they can continue to operate and save lives.”