Legislature promotes assistance for crime victims

Posted: Monday, April 19, 2010

JUNEAU - The Alaska Senate on Friday unanimously approved House Joint Resolution 48, encouraging the United States Congress to expand funding for crime victim services.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, sponsored the bill supporting the federal Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act, an effort to increase funds available to assist victims of crime.

The Alaska House of Representatives passed the measure without opposition late last month.

"No one chooses to be a victim," Kerttula said, "but when a crime occurs, we need to do our best to help victims recover their health, safety, and well-being. The Victims of Crime Act has done a good job providing victim compensation and often life-saving direct services, but the funding and payout mechanisms that steer support to victims is outmoded."

Kerttula said the bill asks Congress to establish minimum funding levels and maintain a sustainable $800 million balance in the Fund. The VOCA Fund is financed by money collected from criminal fines, forfeitures and penalties.

Congress capped annual obligations from the VOCA Fund, resulting in an accumulated balance of some $3 billion. The Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act would raise that cap, draw from the abundant reserves, and restore and increase critical funding for direct assistance including advocacy, medical, mental and legal services vital to the recovery of victims of crime.

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