As the Massachusetts Senate prepares to debate a supplemental budget bill, District Attorney Kevin Hayden urged legislators to support vital funding that will allow prosecutors and other victim serving agencies to continue delivering services to survivors of crime.
“Violent crime can have life altering impacts. My office employs a team of dedicated and compassionate victim witness advocates who provide support to victims of crime and survivors of homicide victims throughout their interactions with the criminal legal system and beyond,” District Attorney Hayden said. “We work with a network of victim service agencies and nonprofit partners who provide vital and often life-saving services to those who have experienced domestic violence, human trafficking, sexual assault, gun violence and trauma. We cannot, in good conscience, allow funding for these services to be cut.”
The Senate tomorrow takes up S.2776, which includes an amendment filed by Senator Joanne M. Comerford that would counteract impending cuts in federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding. The funds available through VOCA were depleted in recent years, resulting in cuts in FY23. These cuts will hit approximately 161 Massachusetts victim-focused agencies that provide free services to victims of crime, including SCDAO and many other service providers working on behalf of crime victims in Boston, Chelsea, Revere, and Winthrop.
Last year, federal legislation was passed that will increase available VOCA funds in future years, but the funds will not be available in FY23, which begins July 1, 2022, resulting in significant cuts to victim service funding across the nation. The proposed supplemental state budget will bridge the gap in funding for impacted agencies in Massachusetts, allowing them to continue providing the level of services that crime victims require and deserve.
SCDAO receives more than $269,000 in VOCA funding each year. The funds support the office’s Victim Witness Assistance Program by allowing the office to maintain necessary staffing and to provide emergency services – including housing assistance, transportation and basic necessities – to survivors of homicide and victims of gun violence. These services are available to victims and survivors at no cost and regardless of whether charges are filed in the case in which they were victimized.
The Massachusetts Office of Victim Assistance (MOVA), which administers VOCA funds in Massachusetts, reports that 22 agencies in Suffolk County alone face painful cuts to staffing and services if the supplemental budget bill is not passed.
“Victims are at the center of everything we do. Without funding to provide services, referrals, safety planning, and other outreach, we cannot fulfill our obligation to serve the victims, survivors and communities that rely on this office,” District Attorney Hayden said. “The VOCA bridge funding will allow us to continue providing victims with the support and resources they deserve as they cope with the grief and trauma they experience in the aftermath of homicide and violence. This bill is vital to protecting and empowering victims and communities most impacted by crime.”