Judiciary Committee unanimously endorses bill to support survivors of violent crime
AUGUSTA — On Tuesday, the Legislature’s Judiciary Committee endorsed a proposal from Sen. Anne Carney, D-Cape Elizabeth, to ensure survivors of violent crime can continue to access essential support services. LD 2084, “An Act to Provide Funding for Essential Services for Victims of Crimes,” received unanimous support of committee members present.
“Maine is facing a severe 60% decrease in funding through the federal Victims of Crime Act. That kind of a cut would be devastating to Maine’s support system, and so it falls to state leaders to ensure these programs will be able to continue their work,” said Sen. Carney. “I thank my fellow committee members for their support of this bill, and the many providers and members of the public whose powerful stories helped us understand the importance of this funding. I’m eager to see this funded and passed into law, so that these vital services to support victims and survivors of violence can continue.”
LD 2084 would provide ongoing funding for state programs that are typically supported by VOCA funding, with $6 million budgeted for the 2024-25 fiscal year.
Federal VOCA funding has decreased over the last few years across the country. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which distributes VOCA funds in Maine, had been able to keep local providers whole through a combination of reserved VOCA funds and other federal funds. However, DHHS has indicated it will not be able to keep pace with the decreasing federal funding levels. Maine is projected to receive 60% less funding than it has previously.
Additionally, VOCA-funded crisis response services played a critical role in the immediate aftermath and ongoing impacts of the Lewiston shooting in October. The homicide victim services team met with victims, helped family members recover their loved one’s personal items from the crime scenes and assisted families in accessing funds to help with unexpected funeral expenses. Many needs continue to be supported by Maine’s victim services response network.
The largest recipients of VOCA funding Maine are the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Children’s Advocacy Centers and Pine Tree Legal Assistance. VOCA funding also supports court-appointed special advocates in child protective cases in the Judicial Branch, services for elders through Legal Services for the Elderly and the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine, and a variety of crime victims through Victim Witness Advocates at the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Corrections, and in local District Attorney’s offices.
LD 2084 now faces votes in the Senate and House.