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Iowa's Survivor Support Organizations To Have Access To More Federal Funding

Sen. Joni Ernst, a survivor herself, stands with President Joe Biden when he signed the VOCA Fix Act into law last week. The law redirects more funding into the Crime Victims Fund.
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Sen. Joni Ernst (far right) stands with President Joe Biden and other lawmakers when Biden signed the VOCA Fix Act into law last week. The law redirects more funding into the Crime Victims Fund.

Iowa organizations working to support victims of crime will have access to more federal funding after President Joe Biden signed the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Fix into law. The VOCA Fix Act is a bipartisan bill that provides financial support to victims of crime.

Iowa’s Republican U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst are original cosponsors of the bill. At the signing, Biden expressed his gratitude to Grassley and all who made the law possible.

In a statement, Ernst, a survivor herself, said "I’m extraordinarily proud to help get this critical, bipartisan legislation signed into law to bolster support for countless crime victims in Iowa and across the country. This issue is deeply personal for me, which is why I’m so pleased Congress acted to help those who have endured suffering at the hands of criminal perpetrators by strengthening the Crime Victims Fund."

Ernst's communication team said the legislation will provide "urgently needed support" to organizations like the Domestic Violence Intervention Program (DVIP) in Iowa.

Alta Medea-Peters, the director of community engagement, said DVIP is thankful to have access to more federal funding, but it won’t be available for two more years. Before it can apply for funding, DVIP will see a 35 percent cut in federal funding from the previous administration.

"The bonus though, the good news of the VOCA Fix Act being signed into law is that in two years time, we will not be facing the same cuts that we're facing now," she said. "So there's nothing that can be done about these upcoming into fiscal years and that 35 percent cut."

In 2021, DVIP will see approximately a 10 percent budget cut to federal VOCA grants followed by a 25 percent cut in 2022.

VOCA's Crime Victims Fund gains its funding from non-taxpayer sources like criminal fines, penalties and forfeited bail bonds. Some of those funds were redirected in previous years, which caused the delayed cuts to victims' services during the Biden administration.

"Today, I think is a day of hope. And I mean that. A day of hope and healing for victims or crime and organizations that support those victims of crime," Biden said last week when he signed the law.

Medea-Peters added the fact that this law gained bipartisan support was important for survivors and perpetrators.

"Ultimately, it gives us hope that we are seeing those two sides come together and say that victims lives matter. And individuals that are victims and survivors of intimate partner violence, gendered violence, domestic violence, all can hear that and see that. And I think that sends a strong message to perpetrators that we see you," she said.

DVIP leadership will focus on how to address some of the financial cuts before planning use for the future funding options.

“There is still plenty of work to be done. A lot of programs are facing catastrophic changes over the next two years to remedy the damage that's already been done. But there is hope on the horizon," Medea-Peters said.

Parts of rural Iowa will most likely see the largest differences due to the cuts. DVIP closed its offices in Mt. Pleasant, Burlington and Keokuk.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted issues of intimate partner violence. That violence has a disproportionate effect on communities of color.

"That has certainly put a stress on programs, not just our own, but many programs across the the country and the state," Medea-Peters said. "Just driving that point home."

She included DVIP accepts financial support from individuals, as the state's funding stayed neutral this year. It did not increase when there were federal cuts. She said on average, one night in a shelter per person costs $35.

If you or someone you know is at risk or in need of survivors' services, contact the Domestic Violence Intervention Program:

  • Call the toll-free 24/7 hotline 800-373-1043
  • Text the national hotline: START to 288788
Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines