‘We Cannot Balance California’s Budget on the Backs of Crime Victims’

California is expecting a 44.7% budget reduction for organizations providing services to survivors of crime, including domestic violence, elder abuse, and child abuse.

Several hundred people are expected to gather on the steps of the California state Capitol in Sacramento on April 30 to ask Governor Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature to allocate $200 million to organizations that support victims of crime.

Speakers at the rally, to be held on the West side of the Capitol, include Sen. Susan Rubio, Assemblymembers Eloise Gómez Reyes and Blanca Rubio, and leaders of several organizations supporting survivors of crime.

VOCA Funding

Currently, support for crime survivor services comes primarily from a federal fund known as the Victims Of Crime Act.

The funds for VOCA do not come from taxpayer dollars, but are gleaned from fines and penalties resulting from convictions in federal cases. VOCA was passed in 1984: the landscape for criminal convictions has dramatically changed since then. As a result, VOCA funds have steadily been dropping since 2019. The US Congress allocates VOCA funding each year, and could choose to use taxpayer dollars, but has not made such moves to date.

In 2023, California received $153 million in VOCA funding. For 2024, funds dropped to just $87 million.

Drastic Cuts

More than 800,000 people in California are served with VOCA dollars, including survivors of domestic violence, rape, human trafficking, elder abuse, and child abuse, including sexual abuse. Funds support rape crisis centers, transitional housing, domestic violence shelters, legal help, counseling and therapy, among other services.

VOCA funds make up 100% of the budgets for organizations providing domestic violence housing, transitional housing, child advocacy, victim and witness assistance, and support for unserved/underserved survivors. 87% of rape crisis grant program funding is supported by VOCA, and 47% of domestic violence assistance program funding is also supported by VOCA dollars.

The California Office of Emergency Services, which distributes VOCA funds, told recipient organizations last week to anticipate a 44.7% cut in funding this year.

Domestic Violence Support

Krista Colón, Public Policy Director at the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence told Ethnic Media Services: “The consequences of these cuts in funding will be dire. Thousands of survivors of terrible crimes will be impacted.”

“The Cal OES announcement was far worse than anyone expected,” said Colon, adding that organizations supported by the funding were initially anticipating a 30% drop in funds.

“People are asking: ‘do we close a clinic? How many staff do we lay off?’ We never want to discourage people from reaching out for support, but all of us are worried right now about how many people we will be able to support,” she said. “These services are critical lifelines for so many people, especially in rural areas.”

State Budget Deficit

Newsom is expected to present his budget May 14. CalMatters reports that the state is expected to incur a $73 billion budget deficit.

Asked if the governor would support the $200 million ask, given the large budget deficit, Colon noted that support for victims’ services is a small fraction of California’s overall budget, which currently stands at $291.5 billion. She pointed out that it is less than 2% of the $14.5 billion budget allocated to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

“It is a bad budget year. But we should not balance our state budget on the backs of survivors,” said Colon.

On April 18, 8 organizations sent a letter to Newsom and several key members of the state Legislature, asking for the additional funding. The letter and list of supporting organizations can be read here.