Lisa Murkowski

06/17/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/17/2021 19:42

Murkowski Urges Senate to Pass VOCA Fix Act

06.17.21

Today, U.S. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) spoke on the U.S. Senate floor, urging her colleagues to take up and pass the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act (VOCA Fix Act). In March 2021, Senator Lisa Murkowski joined her colleagues, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John Cornyn (R-TX), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), in introducing critical legislation to strengthen the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) by re-directing new funds into the Crime Victims Fund.

Click here for video of Senator Murkowski.

'This legislation does not change how federal tax money is spent. It provides a technical fix by directing additional non-taxpayers dollars from criminal monetary penalties into the fund. So, we're sitting at a point where the longer Congress delays this fix, the larger the cuts that victims services in my state and all around the country will face,' said Senator Murkowski. 'This has been a hard time for us. I think we recognize it. But for those who are trying to serve victims, those that are trying to serve the most vulnerable at an exceptionally vulnerable time in their lives-it makes it ten times harder. Our providers are exhausted. They are burnt out. And now they are faced with massive cuts. We simply cannot fail them. So, I would urge us. Can we look past the politics on this? This is what these victims' advocates are saying: 'Please don't use us as the political lever here.' And so I join not only with Senator Durbin but also with the many in this body who would urge that we pass this technical fix to VOCA.'

In Alaska, 30 victims service organizations are facing 35 percent cuts to their VOCA funding, a critical source of money that keeps shelter doors open and staff paid. In the past several months, Senator Murkowski has spoken with a number of local Alaskan shelters and providers who have all shared their concern over the upcoming funding shortfalls set to happen as early as July 1 - just two weeks from today. This federal funding is essential to addressing Alaska's lack of available services for victims. If the technical fix for VOCA funds is not sustained, victim service providers will lose crucial funds and could be forced to close or reduce services.

ADDITIONAL SPEECH EXCERPTS:

  • Folks back in Alaska are just starting their day and they are looking with anticipation and hope, and quite honestly, prayers that today might be the day that they get good news on this.
  • Think about it-you're the shelter in Kodiak where I was just 6-8 weeks ago or so-when you are told you have a 35 percent cut to your budget coming. You have a small community. Where are you going to find those resources?
  • The need is more enhanced or exacerbated than ever before. We've seen this as a follow on from COVID. We have seen those after effects-that aftershock-when you have been in an isolated situation where you have been forced to kind of shelter in place, if you will, but your home is not a safe shelter. It is not a shelter in that sense of the word. But you don't have services, and so where do you go? You stay with your abuser. You stay in a situation that is unsound, unsafe, because you don't have any place to turn.
  • We had a situation last summer-devastating loss. Five village residents in different villages who died in domestic violence murders over a course of 10 days. These are small villages where everybody knows everybody and the loss of one person-an elder, a child-is extraordinary.
  • There's a story in the news just today-a domestic situation where the husband took the wife's life and then took his own. And it was a 6 year old with an iPad who notified the authorities. So, I think about the reality of what a 35 percent cut means. What it means when you say 'your service providers are faced with 6 million dollars less in funding for victims services.' These shelters are calling out to us for help.