Local victims advocates applaud signing of crime victims bill fix
President Joe Biden signed the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Bill into law this week after it swept through the Senate in a 100-0 vote.
The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Bill will redirect federal criminal settlements from non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements into the Victims of Crime Act fund. They’re currently deposited into the general treasury.
The decrease in VOCA funding comes from the change in the justice system, where judges and law enforcement are directing more people to diversion centers and providing more support for offenders. This differs from hardline criminal justice approaches in the past.
“This is going to enable us to provide more help and support to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, trafficking and other crimes all across America,” President Joe Biden said before signing the bill on Thursday.
Nonprofit organizations that support victims — such as Rome’s Harbor House Child Advocacy Center and the
Sexual Assault Center of Northwest Georgia — receive a majority of their funding from VOCA.
“It’s such a relief and I’m so appreciative of our legislators’ recognition of the importance of our services,” SAC Director Kimberly King said.
SAC provides support services, including counseling, and medical examinations for sexual assault victims.
Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Jon Ossoff were two of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill. Georgia 14th District Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene voted against the bill when it made its way through the House of Representatives, but it passed 384 to 38.
“We were fortunate enough to have a phone call with one of (Warnock’s) aides a few months ago and he wound up becoming a sponsor of the bill,” Harbor House Director Joe Costolnick said. “It feels like renewed hope for the future.”
Harbor House is a nonprofit that provides interviews and counseling to child victims of sexual and severe physical abuse. It’s one of 52 in the state alone and uses VOCA funds to pay their therapists and provide other crucial services.