The Bulletin Board

Attorney general seeks $5 million in federal money for victim services

By: - February 20, 2023 12:03 pm
Door reads "Executive Council Office"

The Department of Justice is expected to ask the Executive Council on Wednesday for $5 million in American Rescue Plan money for its victims’ compensation program. (New Hampshire Bulletin)

This story was updated Monday, Feb. 20, 2023, at 12:30 p.m. to clarify which victim services are supported with federal funding.

The effects of COVID-19’s social isolation, health problems, and job loss continue to drive increases in calls to domestic violence and sexual assault hotlines, emergency shelters, and child abuse referrals, according to the Department of Justice. 

Worse, the increased demand coincides with a drop in federal money available for victims of crime for help with new housing, medical care, lost wages, and emergency funds. The Department of Justice is expected to ask the Executive Council on Wednesday to mitigate that loss with $5 million in American Rescue Plan money for victim services. 

In his request to the council, Attorney General John Formella focused on victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In 2022, calls to crisis lines increased by approximately 66 percent, according to the department’s request. Emergency shelters saw a 30 percent increase over 2019 from domestic violence victims, according to the department. 

“Despite relaxed COVID-19 restrictions, there are indications that the need for victim services will continue to increase,” the department’s request said. “Mandated social isolation, compounded with the fear of getting sick, instantly provided new ways for abusive partners to leverage power and control.”

Victims who lost jobs don’t have the money to escape a dangerous situation, putting them more at risk of economic abuse, the request said. And child welfare advocates and investigators are working though a backlog of reports of child abuse, which increased after children returned to school and child care centers, where adults recognized and reported safety concerns, the department said.   

The federal Victims of Crime Act has provided states assistance for victims since 1984 with money collected in federal court fines. That funding has dropped as federal prosecutors have shifted from court prosecutions to negotiated agreements, where any criminal fines were excluded from the program. 

Under a 2021 law change, both kinds of resolutions to federal cases now fund victim services. Victim advocates have urged states to find alternative funding while the law change begins replenishing lost compensation money.

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Annmarie Timmins
Annmarie Timmins

Senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is a New Hampshire native who covered state government, courts, and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years. During her time with the Monitor, she won a Nieman Fellowship to study journalism and mental health courts at Harvard for a year. She has taught journalism at the University of New Hampshire and writing at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.