Victim services aid bill ready to be signed into law

Legislation to strengthen the Crime Victims Fund Act passed the U.S. Senate unanimously on Tuesday, July 20, and was on its way to the White House for President Joe Biden’s signature.

This federal funding is essential to addressing Alaska’s lack of available services for victims, said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, who spoke on the Senate floor prior to the vote, urging the Senate to pass the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act.

Murkowski helped introduce the VOCA Fix Act, re-directing new funds into the Crime Victims Funds. If the technical fix for VOCA funds was not sustained, victim service providers, including 30 organizations in Alaska, would lose crucial fuds and could be forced to close or reduce services, she said.

During a roundtable in Alaska in late June on the impact of the VOCA deposit issue, participating organizations testified that they faced a 36% cut to their VOCA funds this past fiscal year. “For many of these organizations, this source of money makes up a quarter or more of their budget,” Murkowski told fellow senators. In the midst of a global pandemic “our providers are exhausted, burnt out and in need of all the support they can get,” she said. “It is

essential that we are able to provide victim service organizations with much-needed stability.”

Supporters of the legislation in Alaska include Tami Truett Jerue, executive director of the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, who said it is vital that the VOCA fund be made consistent and available, especially for tribes.

In the last year, Alaska has seen a rise in child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assaults, Jerue said. “The Tribal Set Aside funding needs to continue, so that much needed services can be continued and expanded,” she said.