The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking comments on the provision of direct tribal access to the Crime Victims Fund (Fund) for FY 2018. Consultation calls were held this week and written comments are being accepted through June 29, 2018. The DOJ’s background paper is attached and described below. So far for FY 2019, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have each approved bills which would continue the provision of direct tribal access to the Crime Victims Fund. Direct access to the Fund means that tribes are now directly eligible for millions of dollars to assist victims of crime.
Background. The Fund comes from the collection of federal criminal fines, penalties and assessments, not taxpayer funds. It is not subject to the appropriations process except that in annual appropriations bills, Congress places a cap on how much of these monies will be distributed from the Fund. The FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Act provided the first ever direct tribal allocation under the Crime Victims Fund (Fund). The allocation is three percent, which for FY 2018, amounts to $133 million. (The spending cap for the entire Fund in FY 2018 is $4.4 billion.)
Consultation on the FY 2018 Tribal Set Aside. On June 12 and 14, the DOJ held tribal consultation calls on the tribal set aside for FY 2018 (see our General Memorandum 18-022 of June 1, 2018). The attached background paper, which was released after our memo was published, provides a short explanation of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) (the authorizing statue for the Fund), including a list of eligible categories of activities for awards from the Fund. The DOJ notes the time pressure they are under to disperse these funds: the last day of FY 2018 is September 30, 2018. The paper explains that the DOJ is particularly interested in receiving feedback on the following questions:
1) What can the Department do to ensure that information about the funding is available to all eligible potential applicants?;
2) What can the Department do to encourage eligible entities to apply for this funding?; and
3) Are there other activities and/or items that may be funded under VOCA that the Department should consider funding?
Written comments are to be submitted on or before 5:00 PM, ET on June 29, 2018 via email to email@example.com or via first class mail to:
Office for Victims of Crime
Office of Justice Programs
810 7th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20531
Attn.: Allison Turkel
Further information can be found at the DOJ’s page for the tribal set aside: https://www.ovc.gov/news/fy18-tribal-set-aside.html
Status of the FY 2019 Tribal Set Aside. As we reported in our General Memorandum 18-022 the House Appropriations Committee has approved its FY 2019 appropriations bill which funds the Department of Justice (the Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill) and it includes a five percent tribal allocation from the Fund. The cap for the Fund is set in the bill at $2.6 billion. Five percent of that is $130 million, roughly the same amount of tribal funding as in FY 2018. Since that memo, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved its FY 2019 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill and it includes a five percent tribal allocation. Notable, however, is that the Senate Appropriations Committee’s version would set the cap for the Fund at $4.4 billion, resulting in $220 million for tribes in FY 2019, if enacted. We are hopeful that as Congress considers FY 2019 appropriations bill that the tribal set aside will remain intact.
Multi-Year Authorization Still Pending. The drawback to securing a tribal set aside through the appropriations process is that it only applies to the fiscal year for which the bill is written. Ultimately, the underlying law will need to be amended in order to provide a permanent tribal allocation. In the current Congress there is legislation pending in the House (HR 4608, Rep. O’Halleran (D-AZ)) and Senate (S 1870, Sen. Hoeven (D-ND)) which would provide a five percent tribal allocation for 10 years.
Please let us know if we may provide additional information about the provision of direct tribal access to the Crime Victims Fund or assistance preparing comments.