Biden signs bipartisan bill to bolster federal support for victims of abuse

President Biden signed a bipartisan bill Thursday to redirect funding for the existing Victims of Crime Act so that more money is allocated to programs for victim support. 

“When someone commits a crime, it’s not enough to bring the predator to justice. We also need to support the victims,” the president said, reflecting on his time spent visiting victims in domestic violence shelters. 

“I’m convinced that women who are victims of domestic violence suffer from post-traumatic stress no different than a soldier being shot at regularly,” he added.

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Biden said the legislation, put forward by Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., changes how criminal fines are deposited federally.

“This one doesn’t take a dime of taxpayer’s money. It uses fines and penalties paid by convicted federal criminals,” Biden explained. 

The majority of funds under non-prosecutorial agreements – originally deposited in the General Treasury – will now be redirected to the Crimes Victim Funds (CVF).  

“Fines from what are called non-prosecutorial agreements or deferred prosecution agreements did not go into this Victim’s Crimes Fund in the past,” Biden said Thursday. “Since there’s been more and more of these agreements in recent years, the fund is being depleted. 

“That meant dramatic cuts in the funding it could provide for victims and for organizations to support these victims,” he added.

More than 13 million people relied on state, local and tribal services provided to victims of crimes during 2018, according to the latest data found by the Bureau of Justice Statistics National Crime Victimization Survey. 

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The legislation signed by the president Thursday received overwhelming bipartisan support and passed in the Senate 100-0 Tuesday. The House also backed the bill largely on a bipartisan basis, passing through the chamber 384 – 38.

Republican Alaskan Sen. Lisa Murkowski helped introduce the legislation and gave an impassioned speech from the Senate floor Tuesday.

“Alaska Cares saw a 173 percent increase in children hospitalized in the pediatric ICU for serious physical abuse and fatal neglect,” Murkowski said. 

“I heard about an unprecedented increase in child torture,” she added. “You think about that, it has to just haunt you to the core.”

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The Alaskan senator said that victims services in her state have seen a 36 percent cut over the last year during the pandemic. 

“When you think about the role that these victims services, these providers, who are there for truly the most vulnerable…it should make us want to do everything that we can,” Murkowski added.

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