ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Time is running out for victim services in Maryland.
If Governor Hogan doesn’t act soon to add funding to the Maryland state budget, critical services for crime survivors, including sexual assault survivors, will be drastically reduced. Federal Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funds have been a key source of support for survivors. These funds have been decreasing steadily since 2018. This summer, Congress passed the “VOCA Fix” law to replenish the pool of funding, but this will take several years. If the state does not act to fill the gap in funding, victims will be left without the help they need. Funds for services such as counseling, advocacy, domestic violence shelters, child advocacy centers, support for rape victims at the hospital, and victim-witness support in court will disappear.
Over 30 organizations asked Governor Hogan in November to include additional funding in the State Budget to stop cuts to core services for victims of crime. On January 14th and again on March 4th, community members, rape crisis centers, and services providers joined our Twitter Storms asking the governor to fill the gap in VOCA funds. Since then, our advocacy has continued, but Governor Hogan still has not added more victim services funding to the budget. Budget hearings in Annapolis yesterday and last week highlighted the need for funding and raised questions about whether the State is ignoring information about how much federal funding will actually be available this year.
The temporary funding gap can be easily covered by Maryland’s existing resources. Right now, the state has a historic budget surplus of nearly $2.5 billion in excess funds and increased revenue projections exceeding $2 billion for the current and upcoming fiscal years. The temporary gap in federal VOCA funding is estimated to be $20-30 million, a negligible amount of the budget surplus that would make a world of difference for victims across Maryland.
A rural sexual assault and domestic violence program described the importance of VOCA funding, saying “If steps aren’t taken to keep VOCA at least level funded, survivors will be left dealing with extremely complicated and dangerous issues alone. There are no words for how important it is for the VOCA gap to be filled. Lives will be lost without it.”
Time is running out for survivors of sexual violence, abuse, and exploitation. They are counting on Governor Hogan to fill the gap in VOCA funding and ensure they have the support they need to seek safety and justice.
MCASA is the federally-recognized state sexual assault coalition and responsible for certifying comprehensive rape crisis/sexual assault programs to ensure services are survivor centered. MCASA’s core members are the State’s 17 rape crisis centers, and the Coalition also represents the voices of many other member professionals, programs, and service providers working with sexual assault survivors. MCASA includes the Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), which provides direct legal services to victims of sexual violence across the state of Maryland. MCASA is the leading public policy advocate for survivors of sexual assault in Annapolis. More information about services for survivors can be found at www.mcasa.org.