Toomey Bill to Direct More Money For Crime Victims Clears Senate Budget Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Pat Toomey's (R-Pa.) bill to end the longstanding injustices surrounding the Crime Victims Fund today was approved by the U.S. Senate Budget Committee. His measure would direct hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funds to victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes.
Sen. Toomey's Fairness for Crime Victims Act of 2015 ensures that money deposited into the Crime Victims Fund will go to crime victims-not to other discretionary spending or to a budget gimmick to understate the deficit.
"It is unconscionable that the government withholds billions of dollars from victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and other crimes," said Sen. Toomey. "Federal law requires that the money from the Crime Victims Fund may be used only to serve victims of crime, not for other spending. Yet unfortunately, the government has withheld billions of dollars from crime victims and used it for other spending projects.
"To add insult to injury, Congress has also used a budget gimmick to fool the American people into thinking Congress is saving these funds-thus underreporting the size of the federal deficit by billions of dollars.
"This injustice must end, and today's action by the Senate Budget Committee is a significant step forward to achieving this goal. I will continue fighting to get this bill enacted to restore fairness for crime victims."
You can watch a short video of Sen. Toomey discussing his efforts here.
The Crime Victims Fund was created in 1984, based on the principle that the money the federal government collects from those are convicted of crimes should be used to help those victimized by crime.
The Crime Victims Fund receives no taxpayer dollars; it is funded by criminal fines and penalties collected by the federal government. It is used to compensate victims directly and to support victims' service groups, such as Child Advocacy Centers, rape crisis centers, and domestic violence shelters. Under federal law, money deposited into the Crime Victims Fund may only be used to assist crime victims.
Even though the federal law provides that money deposited in the Crime Victims Fund may only be used to assist crime victims, for more than a decade, Congress has withheld billions of dollars from victims of crime and instead used that money to pay for other discretionary spending projects. Through a budget gimmick, Congress represents that this money that it has already spent is still in the Crime Victims Fund and available for victims of crime. For example, from fiscal year 2010 through fiscal year 2014, the Crime Victims Fund collected $12 billion, but only gave $3.6 billion, or 30 percent, to victims of crime.
In response to pressure from Senator Toomey and others, the fiscal year 2015 omnibus appropriations bill provides $2.3 billion from the Crime Victims Fund - a 200% increase from the previous year.
Senator Toomey's Fairness for Crime Victims Act (S. 1495) provides a permanent fix. It ends the injustices surrounding the Crime Victims Fund and ensures that every year, victims of crime will receive the funding they need. The bill provides that, each year, Congress disburse at least the average of the past 3 years' deposits into the Fund. For fiscal year 2016, this will result in over $2.6 billion being distributed- 3½ times the $745 million provided in fiscal year 2014. Pennsylvania groups serving crime victims will see funding more than quadruple, from $17.6 million in fiscal year 2014 to $80 million in fiscal year 2016.
Victims advocates in Pennsylvania support Sen. Toomey's proposal and believe they will be able to help even more victims if enacted.
"Local and state hotlines answered 744 calls, an average of 31 calls per hour," said Dr. Peg Dierkers, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence . "However, in that same day in Pennsylvania, there were 252 unmet requests for services, which could not be provided because programs did not have the necessary resources."
"Under the Fairness for Crime Victims Act, Child Advocacy Centers, rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and other victim service groups in Pennsylvania will see funds more than quadruple-going from $17 million in fiscal year 2014 to an estimated $70 million in fiscal year 2016," said Jack Whelan, District Attorney, Delaware County.
Said Diane Moyer, Legal Director, Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, "Each year Pennsylvania rape crisis centers provide confidential services, at no charge, to approximately 30,000 men, women and children affected by sexual assault. The most frustrating thing for someone who has done policy work is that there is money available for these unmet needs."
"It will make a dramatic funding difference for Pennsylvania, which will see funds for CACs and other victim service groups more than quadruple-going from $17 million in fiscal year 2014 to an estimated $70 million in fiscal year 2015," said Abbie Newman, Executive Director & President, Mission Kids, Child Advocacy Center of Montgomery County.