Earlier this session, MACo joined several advocacy organizations in support of additional state funding to support Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) initiatives.
The federal act provides funding for needed services to survivors of sexual assault, child sexual abuse, sex trafficking, and other crimes. MACo, working alongside the Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault (MCASA), requested an additional $50 million from the state to cover an anticipated 62.5% cut in VOCA funds on the federal level. On March 25th, Governor Larry Hogan appropriated $35 million in his third supplemental budget to cover any projected deficits in VOCA programming. MCASA’s Executive Director Lisae C. Jordan expressed thanks to the Governor and General Assembly for the additional funding in a press release:
“We are grateful for the laudable actions of the Maryland General Assembly that prioritized funding for lifesaving victim services,” said Executive Director Jordan. “The actions of the General Assembly combined with the Governor’s commitment of $35 million will ameliorate the funding crisis for the upcoming fiscal year and enable victim service providers to focus their attention on the victims they serve rather than contemplate how they will keep their doors open.”
This funding will assist critical programming across the state, including:
- Victim-Witness Coordinators in State’s Attorneys Offices and local law enforcement agencies. Without support, crime victims may not learn about court dates or have the support they need to testify against criminals. VOCA supports programs in prosecutors’ offices in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, and Prince George’s Counties, as well as Baltimore City, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, Howard County Police, and more.
- Domestic Violence Shelters and Supportive Services. Survivors of intimate partner violence across the state receive the support they need to help escape violence and end abuse.
- Court Appointed Special Advocates. These trained adults help make sure that abused children have advocates and do not get lost in the systems of courts and government.
- Culturally Specific Services. VOCA supports grants to the Korean Community Service Center of Greater Washington, FreeState Justice, DAWN (Deaf Abused Women Network), Disability Rights Maryland (for services to people with developmental disabilities who have been abused), Asian Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Center, and others.
- Homicide Survivor Support. Helping the families and loved ones of Marylanders who have been murdered.
- Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy and Assistance. Programs supporting the multiple and complex needs of survivors of trafficking, ranging from housing to counseling to legal services.
- Rape Crisis Centers. Sexual Assault Survivors in every jurisdiction in Maryland receive counseling, advocacy, and legal services with VOCA support.
- Child Advocacy Centers. These important programs help ensure that when children are abused, the investigation into the crime is child-focused and trauma-informed.
- Responding to Elder Abuse. Our older community members who have been abused receive help from VOCA-funded programs such as the Washington County Commission on Aging.
Several county agencies are recipients of VOCA funding, including the Baltimore County Department of Social Services, Caroline County Department of Social Services, Howard County Police Department, Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, and Washington County Commission on Aging. The state’s VOCA contributions are anticipated to be offset in future years by additional federal funds collected through penalties and fines from criminal cases.