A fund you’ve likely never heard of is drying up, forcing another 45% cut to CACs and more organizations in your community

Federal Victims of Crime Act funding decreases each year and is facing 45% more cuts this year

Congress passed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) in 1984. The goal was simple: provide direct financial support to victims of crime. Agencies and organizations from domestic violence shelters to child abuse prevention organizations like Child Advocacy Centers rely on much of their funding from VOCA grants. 

A photo of an under-construction building under gray skies of the new Westville Correctional Facility and Prison in Indiana.
Photo via Ind. Department of Corrections of the construction process at the new $1.2B Westville, Ind. Correctional Facility. The $1.2B cost is virtually identical to the entire national budget of the Victims of Crime Act.

VOCA is not funded by tax dollars and is “only” $1.2 billion — the same as a single prison in Indiana

VOCA is not funded with your income or other tax dollars. VOCA is funded from fines and penalties paid by federal criminal charges, forfeited bail bonds, and penalties and special assessments collected by U.S. Attorney’s Offices, federal courts, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. As of February 2024, the fund has about $1.2 billion.

$1.2 billion sounds like a lot, and it is, but $1.2 billion does not go far. The Indiana Legislature appropriated about $1.2 billion to build a single state prison in Westville to house 4,200 male inmates. VOCA’s entire national fund of $1.2 billion is spread across every state and every community and the roughly 2.7 million American victims of violent crime each year. Because crime is sometimes a “lagging indicator” – like in the case of a child who is abused for many years — VOCA usually serves roughly 4 million crime victims annually.

If VOCA funds continue to deplete, state legislatures and budgets can and should pick up the difference to ensure operations of vital services, like forensic interviews of child victims of crime, continue.

VOCA funds will be exhausted in 4 years

VOCA has fluctuated a lot over the last few years, but has had eight straight years of declines. Congress sometimes steps in to lift caps or revise small parts of the law to allow for additional funding. And while the number of victims of crime served by the fund is relatively stable year-over-year, the number of organizations drawing from it has grown rapidly. 

In many Indiana communities, VOCA may be the single largest source of non-tax federal funding. But all that is at risk as grant cycles decrease.

What does VOCA help fund in Indiana?

  • Domestic violence shelters
  • Crisis intervention
  • Legal advocacy for children and abuse victims
  • Funeral and burial expense reimbursement for low-income victims of deadly crime
  • Child Advocacy Centers
  • Victim advocacy programs at CACs and Prosecutor’s offices

Over 590 professional Hoosiers are funded by VOCA. A 45% cut represents 230+ lost jobs.

Tight budgets operating even tighter

In Indiana, the average CAC uses the bulk of their VOCA funds for their Victim Advocacy services which represents about 25-35% of the average CAC’s budget. This is partly because Indiana does not directly fund CACs at the state level, though many CACs receive about 20-35% of their budget from Indiana Department of Child Services grants. The rest is funded by county councils, private fundraisers, or grant applications to other public or private sources.

Each time a forensic interview is conducted, a victim advocate connects a family with therapy or medical care, and an investigation begins into reported crimes against kids, CACs pay for these services through VOCA. It’s how CACs offer all of their direct services at no cost to families.

Since state funding and other municipal sources are also flat, inflation is increasing, and the number of children served in CACs is either steady or growing, CACs rely on private donations to continue serving kids at the same level of service they deserve and our National Accreditation standards demand.

As the number of organizations drawing from VOCA increases and the revenue flowing into VOCA is either flat or declining, an already small pie generates increasingly smaller slices.

VOCA is taking a 45% cut this year as Congress debates balance and appropriation mechanisms.

CACs are tightly-run operations with funding that often demands a lot of their staff

Almost no CAC in Indiana offers direct health insurance to any of their staff.

The average CAC in Indiana has a staff of just 3. Some operate with as few as one or two part-time employees. The largest operates with a staff of 26.

The average Executive Director salary — the highest paid position in any center — is about $40,000-60,000. The median annual salary in Indiana is $55,500.

CAC staff spend most of their time providing direct service to kids and families, but decreasing VOCA funds means more time fundraising, which leaves less time for core services.

Indiana CACs have been diversifying their funding sources as much as possible for years owing to the risks associated with relying on a single large source. But like businesses and households that frequently rely on one or two primary sources of income or customers, it’s sometimes impossible to have a “no risk” funding source.

Here’s what you can do to support CACs and organizations like them in your community

  • Learn more about federal bills and debates happening in Congress
  • Donate directly to your local CAC and help them by serving on their board, hosting fundraisers, volunteering, or educating others about their work

Join the over 2,500 others receiving periodic updates about the Indiana Chapter, CACs, and child abuse prevention.

We send campaigns a handful of times a year.

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