• What is VOCA?

    VOCA stands for the Victims of Crime Act. The Act is a federal law that provides funds in support of a variety of services and activities that assist victims of crime. Under VOCA, each state and certain U.S. territories and possessions may receive formula grants to support direct victim assistance services. 

    When was VOCA enacted?

    1984. It was originally due to expire (“sunset”) in four years, but in 1988, Congress repealed the sunset provision and made VOCA permanent. There have been numerous amendments and changes to VOCA since then.

    How are the funds generated? 

    VOCA money comes from various federal criminal fines, forfeitures, assessments and penalties. These monies were formally established as the federal Crime Victim Fund. None of the money used by VOCA comes from taxpayer appropriations. Since the first deposits were made into the Fund in 1985, a total of $5 billion has been collected. The amounts have varied considerably from year to year. 

    What have been the annual collections nationwide?

    The amounts collected each year have been:
    1985 – $68,312,956
    1986 – $62,506,345
    1987 – $77,446,383
    1988 – $93,559,362
    1989 – $133,540,076
    1990 – $146,226,664
    1991 – $127,968,462
    1992 – $221,608,913
    1993 – $144,733,739
    1994 – $185,090,720
    1995 – $233,907,256
    1996 – $528,941,562
    1997 – $362,891,434
    1998 – $324,038,486
    1999 – $985,185,354
    2000 – $776,954,858
    2001 – $544,437,014
    2002 — $519,466,480
    2003 — $361,341,967
    2004 — $833,695,013
    2005 — $668,268,054
    2006 — $649,631,046
    2007 — $1,017,977,475
    2008 — $896,316,825
    2009 — $1,745,677,602

    How much money does Massachusetts receive?

    The amount of federal funding received by states for victim service programs varies from year to year and depends upon the amount of federal assessments collected. Massachusetts has received the following amounts per federal fiscal year from the Federal Crime Victims Fund:

    1986 – $972,000
    1987 – $718,000
    1988 – $807,000
    1989 – $980,000
    1990 – $1,482,000
    1991 – $1,494,000
    1992 – $1,427,000
    1993 – $1,544,000
    1994 – $1,456,000
    1995 – $1,774,000
    1996 – $2,854,000
    1997 – $8,920,000
    1998 – $6,121,000
    1999 – $5,250,000
    2000 – $8,183,000
    2001 – $7,941,000
    2002 – $8,412,000
    2003 – $7,660,000
    2004 – $7,725,000
    2005 – $8,037,000
    2006 – $8,443,000
    2007 – $7,846,154
    2008 – $6,475,154
    2009 – $7,593,010

    (From 1997 through 2008, the grant period was the year of the award plus three years.)

    Why have the amounts fluctuated?

    The amounts collected and deposited into the Crime Victims Fund has steadily increased. Also, several years have experienced significant spikes in collections. Those spikes are largely attributable to several very large criminal anti-trust and security fraud cases. For example, in 1996, a Japanese bank paid a criminal fine of $340 million, more than had ever before been deposited into the Fund in a single year. 

    Are there any limits on the amount the Fund can collect?

    When VOCA was first enacted in 1984, Congress imposed limits on how much could be deposited into the Fund. This limit was originally set at $100 million and gradually increased to $150 million. The limit on deposits was eliminated in 1992.

    How is the money distributed?

    All the funds deposited into the Crime Victims Fund are used to support a variety of services to crime victims at the federal, state and local levels. Most of the funds are distributed by formula grants to states who use those funds to provide financial support to local direct victim service providers, such as domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and victim-witness assistance programs as well as direct compensation to crime victims.

    How exactly is the money in the Fund spent?

    The following programs and services are supported by Crime Victims Fund money:

    • Children’s Justice Act (to improve the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases)
    • Victim witness coordinators in United States Attorney’s offices
    • Victim assistance staff in FBI offices
    • Federal Victim Notification System (VNS)
    • Formula grants to state crime victim compensation programs
    • Formula grants to states to support direct victim assistance services
    • Discretionary grants by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to support services to victims of federal crimes and national scope training and technical assistance.

    Is the Crime Victims Fund used for anything else?

    Yes. Because of changes made to VOCA by the USA Patriot Act, OVC can retain up to $50 million in an anti-terrorism emergency reserve fund. The emergency reserve fund can be used by OVC to:

    • make supplemental grants to State crime victim compensation and victim assistance programs and non-profits organizations to respond to incidents of domestic terrorism or mass violence
    • make grants to States and other public agencies and non-governmental victim service organizations to assist in response to incidents of international terrorism
    • to fund the International Terrorism Victims Compensation Program. In March of 2002, MOVA received two million dollars in OVC Anti-terrorism funds.

    How much does each state get?

    State funding levels are determined by a formula. Most states receive a base amount of $500,000; American Samoa, Guam and Northern Mariana Islands each receive a base amount of $200,000. The remaining amount allocated for victim assistance grants is then distributed based on population.

    Who administers the program?

    At the federal level, the Fund is held in the U.S. Treasury and is administered by the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) in the U.S. Justice Department Office of Justice Programs (OJP). OVC is responsible for overseeing and monitoring programs that receive Crime Victim Fund monies.

    Massachusetts has received annual federal grants under the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 to fund compensation and direct services to victims of violent crimes. Compensation is provided by the Victim Compensation and Assistance Division through the Office of the Attorney General. All direct services grants are administered by the Massachusetts Office for Victim Assistance (MOVA).

    What is the purpose of VOCA?

    The purpose of VOCA is to expand and enhance direct services to victims of crime. This includes responding to the immediate needs of crime victims, reducing the severity of psychological consequences of victimization, helping restore a victim’s sense of dignity and self-esteem, and assisting and encouraging victims to participate in the criminal justice system.

    How does MOVA distribute VOCA grants?

    VOCA grants are traditionally awarded on a three-year funding cycle. Thus, the open bidding process only occurs every three years. Although presumptively eligible for funding, VOCA recipients are not guaranteed renewal funding each year. VOCA recipients are required to apply for renewal funding each year. Funding levels will be reviewed each year and decisions will be contingent on a program’s submission of a complete and satisfactory application for funding each fiscal year, satisfactory performance, compliance with VOCA regulations and funding availability. All grant award decisions are made by the Victim and Witness Assistance Board.

    What is the process for applying for a VOCA grant in Massachusetts? 

    The funds are distributed through a competitive application process to state agencies and community-based nonprofit agencies across the Commonwealth. Typically, awards are granted for a three year period. For more information, please see the Victims of Crime Act Funding page.

    Are there priority areas for VOCA awards?

    Federal guidelines require states to allocate at least 10% of their VOCA funds to victim populations in each of the following priority areas: child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence and a “previously under-served” victim population defined at the discretion of each state. Massachusetts has selected services to survivors of homicide victims. This allocation requirement does not prevent Massachusetts from distributing more than ten percent of its VOCA funds to any one area of special need or restrict MOVA from funding programs providing direct services to crime victims who do not fall within these groups. 

    What is a typical VOCA award look like in Massachusetts?

    In Massachusetts, most subgrants range between $50,000 and $180,000. They fund services to victims of sexual assault, victims of domestic violence, child witnesses to violence, physically and sexually abused children, survivors of homicide victims, refugee victims of crime, victims of extreme and multiple trauma, victims of hate crimes, and communities which have experienced trauma due to crime. Funded services include crisis intervention, short and long term counseling, support groups, therapy, advocacy, and community crisis response. The subgrants are reviewed annually and are monitored for compliance with performance standards. 

    How can I find out more about VOCA grants in Massachusetts? 

    For more information, please contact the Director of Grants Management and Program Resources by at MOVA by phone at (617) 586-1340.