PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — In a rare move of bipartisanship, all 100 U.S. Senators on Tuesday voted to pass legislation that will strengthen the 40-year-old Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).
VOCA established the Crime Victims Fund, which provides grant funding for state victim compensation and victim service community providers.
The VOCA Fix to Sustain the Victims of Crime Act, sponsored by Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) reroutes federal crime penalties from the Treasury to the Crime Victims Fund, adding an estimated four to seven billion dollars.
“The Crime Victims Fund helps abused children, survivors of domestic violence, and other victims of violence access the professional services they desperately need…. we owe it to the victims to get this done,” Durbin said ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
More than 6,000 organizations across the country benefit from the Fund, including the Center for Prevention of Abuse in Peoria.
“It is incredibly important to those that we serve, it helps us meet our mission to help all people live free from violence and abuse, and those that are perpetrated by gender-based violence shouldn’t have to pay for their recovery, and the funds that we receive from the Victims of Crime Act allow us to serve them in a variety of way, so they can find their pathway to recovery,” said Carol Merna, CEO of the Center for Prevention of Abuse.
Merna said the Crime Victims Fund makes up about 20% of their annual budget, and the Center would be crippled without it.
“Our staff is stretched very thin, carrying out the promise of our mission day in and day out, and if we would have to minimize our staff, if we would have to shrink the number of people they serve, the community would feel it from day one, we are an important part of the community,” she said.
Merna applauded the Senate for passing the bill in a bipartisan fashion.
“We didn’t throw out good for perfect… Compromise is important. Compromised for the sake of principle, is leadership,” she said.
In June, Durbin read a letter from Merna on the Senate Floor, where she urged Congress to pass the bill.
The bill now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.