A common thing we hear at NCADV is, “We need better laws to protect domestic violence victims.” And we couldn’t agree more. That’s why NCADV has a public policy office to influence legislators when they are considering bills and laws that impact the lives of domestic violence survivors. Many voices are better than one, especially when it comes to lobbying for change with our Nation’s leaders. So, how do you lobby to create the change you want to see in the world?
In a series of blog posts, we’ve been discussing how to effectively lobby Congress on behalf of domestic violence survivors, victims, and advocates on critical issues. In the first two posts of the series, we examined grassroots lobbying and how to master the art of lobbying. But, what exactly are you lobbying for? We’ve already covered the lethal combination of domestic violence and firearms in our last post. Increasing federal funding for domestic violence programs is another way to promote the safety of victims and survivors.
In the fourth post of our series, “Why Increasing Federal Funding to Domestic Violence Programs Matters,” you will learn…
- the three most important federal funding sources available to domestic violence programs
- why an increase in funding is necessary for these program
- specific asks to make to your legislators about increasing federal funding to protect victims and survivors
Federal Funding Streams for Domestic Violence Victim Services
Before we dive in, there are two key terms related to the federal budget process you’ll need to understand for the purposes of this blog post: authorization and appropriations.
Authorization: the maximum funding any program can receive; established in statute
Appropriation: the funding the program actually receives; determined by Appropriators
If you are looking for a fuller understanding of the federal budget process, check out this article before reading further.
There are three primary funding streams that impact domestic violence programs, victims and survivors: VAWA, VOCA, and FVPSA.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 to combat the rapid increase in violence against women (e.g. domestic violence, sexual violence) that started in the 1960s. The goal was to change the societal and legal responses to violence against women. VAWA funds a variety of grant programs in three key areas: investigation and prosecution of violence against women, prevention, and victim services.
VAWA has been very successful — intimate partner violence has decreased by approximately two-thirds since it was passed. While VAWA-funded initiatives have enjoyed success, their reach is limited by the amount of money set aside in the federal budget for it; thus, we request the full authorized amount for each VAWA grant program (totalling $589.50 million) annually.
Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)
In 1984, Congress passed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), which established the Crime Victims Fund (CVF) to assist and compensate victims and survivors of crimes. The CVF doesn’t contain any taxpayer money — its revenue stream consists of federal criminal fines, forfeited bonds, forfeited profits from criminal activities, special assessments, and donations by private parties. VOCA provides victim assistance (e.g. shelter, crisis center) and compensation (e.g. reimbursement for lost wages, medical costs not covered by insurance, counseling, funeral costs) for victims of all crimes, not just domestic violence.
Appropriators decide every year how much money to disburse from the CVF, which is sometimes referred to as “setting the cap.” Until Fiscal Year 2015, the disbursements have not matched deposits into the CVF. For example, in 2013, nearly $3 billion was deposited, but just $730 million was distributed. The CVF has grown to almost $11 billion; through an arcane budgetary rule, the CVF is used as an offset for other spending. The money is never actually spent; the same money is used as an offset year after year. This offset represents approximately 40%of the Department of Justice’s overall budget. We understand that drawing the CVF down would hamper the ability of the DOJ to do its job and lead to cuts in programs that we care about, so we do not ask them to spend the money currently in the fund. Rather, we simply ask that future disbursements reflect deposits. We request Appropriators:
- Disburse the average of the previous three years’ deposits, which will protect the CVF while guaranteeing a smooth funding stream for programs;
- Create a tribal funding stream, so Native victims and survivors can access services (this is not a “set aside” or a “carve out”; tribes are sovereign governments who cannot access VOCA funding, but their communities number among those with the greatest need); and
- Do not transfer VOCA funds to pay for VAWA or for any other expense. VAWA and VOCA have different purposes and different eligible recipients.
Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA)
Dating back to 1984, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) is the only funding stream specifically dedicated entirely to funding domestic violence programs and services. We request the full authorized amount of $175 million, plus full funding for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Ask Your Legislators to Support
- Full funding for all VAWA grant programs
- Disbursement the average of the previous years’ deposits from the CVF
- Inclusion of a robust VOCA tribal funding stream
- Full funding for FVPSA and the National Domestic Violence Hotline
What’s Next: Lobbying for Domestic Violence Victims and Survivors
In the final post of our Lobbying for Change series, “Lobbying for Domestic Violence Victims and Survivors,” we’ll recap what has been reviewed so far and put it all together by discussing what you can do to advocate for legislation that protects victims and survivors. By the time you finish reading that blog post, you will have…
- reviewed what grassroots lobbying is and how to do it
- know what specifically to ask your legislators for
- have all the tools and resources you need to start lobbying for change