Bill to Address Victim Services Heading to President’s Desk
Senator Murkowski Helps Shepherd VOCA Fix Act Through U.S. Senate
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) spoke on the U.S. Senator floor, urging her colleagues to pass the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act (VOCA Fix Act), legislation she helped introduce to strengthen the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) by re-directing new funds into the Crime Victims Fund. Following her speech, the Senate passed the VOCA Fix Act in a 100-0 vote and will now head to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
This federal funding is essential to addressing Alaska’s lack of available services for victims. If the technical fix for VOCA funds was not sustained, victim service providers—including 30 organizations in Alaska—would lose crucial funds and could be forced to close or reduce services.
To watch Senator Murkowski’s full floor speech, click here.
“In late June, I was able to host a roundtable on the impact of the VOCA deposit issue in Alaska, and I was blown away by the testimony from organizations who faced a 36 percent 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. It is the difference of being able to answer the phone or not, to respond to save lives. This has been a difficult time for all of us, but for those trying to serve victims through a global pandemic, it has been ten times harder. Our providers are exhausted, burnt out, and in need of all the support they can get. It is essential that we are able to provide victim service organizations with much needed stability, sustainability, flexibility, and certainty,” said Senator Murkowski. “I’m proud to have put my weight behind the VOCA Fix Act over the last few months—helping educate my colleagues, various agencies, and others on the significance of this funding to Alaskans. I thank my Senate colleagues who supported those efforts and look forward to the bill being signed into law.”
Senator Murkowski has been working diligently for months to help preserve this critical funding on behalf of victims, advocates, and service organizations in Alaska and across the nation. Most recently, Senator Murkowski hosted a VOCA roundtable discussion with a network of organizations from across Alaska who are working to serve victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and other unthinkable crimes. Every individual who participated in the roundtable raised concerns about upcoming cuts to Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding and how it will impact their organizations, services, employees, and the many Alaskans who rely on them.
“It is vital that the VOCA fund be made consistent and available, especially for the Tribes, and this bill does that. Tribes have just begun in the last few years to develop victim service programming for their Tribes. Unfortunately, in the last year Alaska has experienced an increase in child abuse, domestic violence and sexual assaults. The Tribal Set Aside funding needs to continue, so that much needed services can be continued and expanded,” said Tami Truett Jerue, Executive Director of the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center.
“Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) are first responders in addressing child abuse, working to serve victims and their families through a coordinated team of disciplines such as medicine, law enforcement, victim advocacy, and mental health. Following the pandemic, the needs of CACs in our state have risen significantly. For example, Alaska CARES in Anchorage—which serves children from throughout the state—has seen a 176 percent increase in inpatient pediatric consults, representing primarily serious physical abuse. Nine of Alaska's CACs receive VOCA, which supports staffing and other essential services. As the state membership organization for Child Advocacy Centers, the Alaska Children's Alliance urges action on the VOCA Fix so that CACs can maintain the critical work of promoting healing for child victims and holding offenders accountable,” said Mari Mukai, Director of the Alaska Children's Alliance.
“It is a representation of our values as a society how we help those who are the most vulnerable. With VOCA funds, VOA has been able to provide essential mental health support services to children and teens who are victims of crimes such as sexual assault. Alaska has some of the highest rates in the nation of sexual assault and suicide—now is not the time to decrease our level of support to young Alaskans. We appreciate the work of many partners across the state who provide critical support services to victims immediately and long-term. We thank Senator Murkowski and the many co-sponsors for their leadership on the VOCA Fix Act. It will take all of us together, with reliable and consistent funding, to ensure victims have access to these needed services,” said Sherrie Wilson Hinshaw, President & CEO of VOA Alaska.
“The statistics of Alaska’s crime epidemic are no surprise to any of us. On average, an Alaskan is victimized by violent crime once every hour; this is why federal funding from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) is so important as a critical tool to assist, aid and compensate Alaskans who experience violent crime,” Department of Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell.
“The importance of VOCA funding for Alaska is immeasurable considering Alaska’s crime rate is 54 percent higher than the national average. VOCA funding awards to Alaska communities in FY2021 was $9.9 million; in FY2022 the amount of VOCA funding for community-based grants is $3.1 million,” said L. Diane Casto, Executive Director of CDVSA.
“Alaska CARES saw a 173 percent increase in inpatient consults (meaning children hospitalized in the pediatric ICU or pediatric hospital) for serious physical abuse including abusive head trauma, fractures of abuse and serious physical injury and neglect,” said Dr. Barbara Knox, Medical Director, Alaska CARES, The Children’s Hospital at Providence.
Additional efforts by Senator Murkowski:
- In June 2021, Senator Murkowski spoke on the Senate floor, urging her colleagues to take up and pass the VOCA Fix Act by unanimous consent.
- In June 2021, Senator Murkowski penned an Op-Ed discussing her multi-faceted approach to overcoming the challenges of domestic violence, sexual assault, missing and murdered Indigenous women, and gender-based violence—including her efforts to sustain VOCA funding.
- In June 2021, Senator Murkowski raised VOCA funding cuts to Attorney General Merrick Garland during a U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing to review the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 funding request for the U.S. Department of Justice.
- In April 2021, in light of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, Senator Murkowski shared a message of support to victims of crime and their advocates regarding VOCA funding cuts.
- In March 2021, Senator Murkowski joined Senate colleagues in introducing the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act.