Crime-victim organizations around the U.S. will be major beneficiaries from the budget deal agreed on by leaders of Congress to run the federal government through next September. The measure includes an increase in the limit on federal spending for victims from $745 million to $2.36 billion, a near quadrupling of the available funds. By law, all fines paid in federal criminal cases are set aside to help crime victims but Congress has severely limited the spending. About $3.5 billion was paid into the fund in the last year but victims could benefit from only a small fraction of that because of the cap, says Steve Derene of the National Association of VOCA Assistance Administrators, which represents agencies that oversee spending for crime victims.
Derene’s group and others, including the National Center for Victims of Crime, have been urging Congress for several years to raise the spending limit. Derene praised congressional appropriators for “seeing the need to get more money into the field.” He added, “We’ve been falling behind,” noting that many organizations that serve crime victims are using outdated computer systems and are housed in century-old buildings.