Perry bill aims to protect crime victims fund
Rep. Scott Perry visited the York County Children's Advocacy Center on Tuesday to introduce his latest bill, which would prevent money in the federal Crime Victims Fund from being spent on unrelated projects.
The Crime Victims Fund was established by Congress in 1984 to fund victim services throughout the nation, according to the federal Office for Victims of Crime website. The fund includes money collected from criminal fines, forfeited bail, penalties and special assessments.
The fund collected $12 billion from fiscal years 2010-14 but disbursed just $3.6 billion, or about 30 percent, of that money to fund victim services during that same time period, according to Perry, who said money has been taken from the fund to pay for unrelated federal projects.
The Fairness for Crime Victims Act of 2017, sponsored by the Dillsburg Republican, requires that all funds collected for the Crime Victims Fund be spent solely on assisting crime victims.
Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., introduced a similar bill in the Senate. Robert DeSousa, Toomey's state director, said he introduced the same bill during the last session, but it didn't receive enough support without concurrent House legislation.
The fund allocates money to states based on a formula that takes into account each state's crime levels.
Perry's bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., does not guarantee that states will begin to see more money from the fund, but Perry said the bill would create a sort of "lock box" around the money coming into it to ensure it isn't used for anything else.
Congress placed caps on how much money could be disbursed in a given year to maintain a stable source of support for future service, according to the Office for Victims of Crime website.
The state Commission on Crime and Delinquency is the office responsible for allocating Pennsylvania's annual share of the Crime Victims Fund.
Darin Ayers, acting director of the commission, said the state has recently seen a large spike in money it received from the fund, jumping from $17 million during the 2014-15 fiscal year to $77 million during 2015-16.
The commission expects to receive about $80 million for 2016-17, Ayers said.
Ayers said his office has not lobbied for the bill Perry is proposing, but it certainly supports the idea of receiving increased resources.
Matthew Leonard, a spokesman for the commission, said the group hasn't seen the bill or spoken to Perry, but it is looking for continuity in funding from Congress.
Ayers said his office had allocated all $17 million to victim advocacy organizations throughout the state in 2014-15 but only allocated about $40 million of the $77 million available in 2015-16 because the office wants to make sure the increased funding is sustainable before spending it all.
The commission allocated about $655,000 of the funds to York County organizations in 2014-15, and those allocations have risen to $885,000 during 2015-16 and $1.2 million in 2016-17, according to Ayers.
The York County Children's Advocacy Center had been receiving about $10,000 per year from the fund, but a second grant will bump that up to about $40,000 starting this year, according to Deborah Harrison, the center's executive director.
The additional funding will go toward the salary of the victim advocate, which Harrison said opened up funds to hire a second full-time forensic interviewer.
The center holds interviews for child abuse victims during criminal investigations because it offers a more comfortable, child-friendly atmosphere than a courthouse or police station, Harrison said.
The center has increased the number of families it supports from 386 in 2013 to 816 last year, she said.