RD267 - Report on Current and Projected Status of Federal, State and Local Funding for Victim/Witness Programs
*This report was replaced in its entirety by the Department of Criminal Justice Services on November 9, 2012.
Currently, there are 104 local grant funded Victim/Witness Programs and 4 statewide victim assistance programs in Virginia. The Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) uses three funding streams to make grants to support these services for victims of crime: federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds, Victim/Witness Special Funds, and state General Funds. Federal VOCA funds are awarded annually to Virginia, and federal fiscal year awards support programs in the following state fiscal year. For example, federal fiscal year 2012 (FFY2012) VOCA funds, awarded to Virginia in May 2012, are being utilized to support Victim/Witness Programs in State Fiscal Year 2013 (SFY20 13).
Services provided by Victim/Witness Programs include explaining victims' rights, assisting victims in obtaining protective orders, explaining and helping victims apply for compensation through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund (CICF), notifying victims of case statuses, court dates, and prisoner statuses, explaining the criminal justice process, accompanying victims to court and criminal justice related meetings, assisting victims in preparing victim impact statements, providing crisis intervention, and providing case disposition information. Annually these programs typically provide direct services to over 60,000 crime victims.
Victim services are not immune from funding reductions that have impacted other federal grant programs. After receiving increases (rather than reductions) in federal funds for the last three years, federal VOCA funds were reduced by 11 % for SFY20 13. Based on anticipated continued reductions in federal funding, a further reduction, or at best no funding change, is very possible in the next fiscal year. Because state General Fund allocations for Victim/Witness programs have remained the same for the last few years, it is only through applying an increase in Victim/Witness Special Fund revenue that total funding for the victim assistance programs in Virginia can remain level for SFY2013. We have been able to avoid reducing Victim/Witness grants in SFY2013 by using more of the state Victim/Witness Special Fund to offset the 11% VOCA reduction.
Federal Funding Outlook
Congress sets the VOCA appropriation level annually, and the federal Office for Victims of Crime cannot yet provide information to DCJS regarding the amount of federal VOCA funds that will be available to Virginia in FFY2013. With all of the uncertainty about the federal budget caused by the pending sequestration, it is very likely we will see additional reductions in VOCA funding. However, these reductions may not be as drastic for programs serving crime victims as for other federal grant programs.
State Funding Outlook - General Funds and Special Funds
Due to the economic downturn, the General Fund appropriation supporting Victim/Witness Programs was reduced by $465,000 in SFY2011, and remains at $2,635,000 for each year of the current state biennium. DCJS is hopeful that eventually an improving economy will allow restoration of the General Fund appropriation to $3.1 million.
The Victim/Witness Special Fund balance had been significantly depleted by SFY2008 in order to maintain local programs and the delivery of essential services when federal VOCA funds were insufficient and no General Funds had yet been appropriated. However, with the appropriation of General Funds beginning in SFY2008, and DCJS' conservative approach to managing current obligations against the Victim/Witness Special Fund, the Fund operating balance has improved. Even as the overall crime rate continues to decline, revenue for this fund is expected to remain static or gradually increase along with the state's population.
Local Funding Outlook
DCJS encourages allocation of local funds to support Victim/Witness Programs and maintain current staffing levels and the delivery of essential services. However, given current economic conditions, many programs have also seen declining local funding allocations. In fact, twenty-five percent (25%) of Victim/Witness Program Directors responding to a previous survey reported a decline in the percentage of their total budgets supported with local funds.
Victim/Witness Programs face challenges, given the uncertainty regarding the level of federal and state funding available, declining, uncertain, or inadequate local funding, and increasing costs of program operations. While having three sources of funding has mitigated volatility in total grant awards, operational costs for existing programs have increased over time, and total grant awards have not kept pace.
The appropriation of General Funds beginning in SFY2008 averted a funding crisis and helped stabilize the funding outlook for Victim/Witness Programs. However, reductions in two of the three funding streams, in General Funds beginning in SFY2011 and in federal VOCA funding in SFY2013, require an increased reliance on the Victim/Witness Special Fund.
The increased complexity of crimes such as Human Trafficking has created new challenges for agencies working with victims. The broader diversity of victims in terms of language and cultural background, and the greater impact of trauma on victims' lives have greatly increased needs for staff training and resources. In addition, six localities in Virginia still do not have a Victim/Witness program serving victims in their area. The need for additional funding for Victim/Witness Programs remains clear.