PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island Congressman Jim Langevin went to the White House Thursday to join President Joe Biden as he signed a bill into law to sustain the victims of crime fund, which has started to deplete in recent years.
“After hearing from Rhode Islanders about the dramatic cuts to the Crime Victims Fund — which supports such vital programs and survivor services in Rhode Island — I was very pleased to watch the President get this bill across the finish line and signed into law,” said Langevin, who was an original cosponsor of the bipartisan legislation
Biden said during remarks that it was “a day of hope” for victims of crime.
“This is one of those deals where what they did is literally and figuratively going to change the lives of women and children and some men out there,” said the president after signing the act into law.
Biden said that when someone commits a crime, it’s not always enough to charge a criminal. But in many incidences, victims are left with counseling and medical bills, lost wages from missed work, and in some cases, have to pay for temporary housing when they are escaping their abuser.
The bill, sponsored by Representative Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, with 38 co-sponsors, including Langevin, adds a new source of revenue for the Crime Victims Fund, and makes changes to formula grants supported by the fund.
The bipartisan bill passed by a vote of 384-38 in the House in late March and the Senate unanimously passed the legislation earlier this week.
In 2019, these funds helped 230,000 victims of crime, according to the president.
The VOCA fund was first established by Congress in 1984 to provide federal support to state and local programs that assist victims of crime. It uses non-taxpayer money from the Crime Victims Fund for programs that serve victims of crime, including state-formula victim assistance grants. The funds are generated by fines paid by federal criminals.
The legislation directs revenues collected from both prosecution and non-prosecution agreements to be deposited into the fund. Prior to the bill becoming law, the revenue generated from those agreements was deposited into the general fund of the Treasury.
Also, the new law increases the percentage of state compensation payments to crime victims from 60 percent to 75 percent of the amounts awarded during the preceding year.
In Rhode Island, reductions to the fund have led to cuts for programs like Day One and other domestic violence prevention and response organizations.
“The passage of this critical piece of legislation fixes the tragically low funding levels in the Crime Victims Fund and sets it on a sustainable path to ensure funds are available to serve all victims of crime, including the children and families we see at Day One,” said Peg Langhammer, executive director of Day One in a statement.