Dwindling federal funding puts stress on organizations that help victims of crime



Local organizations that serve victims of crime in Montgomery County say a proposed cap on federal funding that supports them puts them at risk for cuts to their service.

These cuts would also come at a time where organizations like YWCA Dayton are seeing more people in need.

“These funds allow us to be able to provide a safe haven for our women and children and our families, but also to give them the wraparound services so they can reacclimate back into the community,” said Terra Fox Williams, CEO and president of YWCA Dayton.

YWCA Dayton, located on Third Street, not only operates a domestic violence shelter but also the only rape crisis center in Montgomery and Preble counties.

The Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) in 1984 created a national crime victims fund made up of fines and penalties paid by federal criminals, not taxpayer dollars, and is the largest funding source for agencies that provide services to crime victims.

The 2024-2025 federal budget proposes cutting the national program from its current $1.9 billion down to a $1.2 billion cap.

This fund currently brings hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations across the Miami Valley that help survivors of intimate partner violence and other crimes.

YWCA officials said they need government leaders to help them advocate for vulnerable populations.

Congressman Mike Turner’s, R-Dayton, office said he is “tracking this issue and is fully engaged in the debate for how it will impact critical services in the Miami Valley.”

Eight organizations in Montgomery County, including YWCA Dayton, are supported by roughly $1.5 million collectively from the fund through Sept. 30, 2024, according to preliminary numbers provided by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

The organization fears that a lowered federal cap could mean a 40-45% reduction in the VOCA grant YWCA Dayton would receive in October 2024, according to the organization.

But the organization has seen a steady decline in this type of funding. The organization in 2018 received $863,229.92 in crime victim funding. This was enough to fund the equivalent of roughly 18 employees and transportation expenses for clients.

YWCA Dayton’s current grant award of $330,000 is enough to fund eight employees.

Fox Williams said YWCA Dayton has needed to find local funds to make up for the federal funding gap. Part of this has been through Montgomery County’s $73 million human services levy and other sources.

And the scramble for other funding options couldn’t come at a worse time. The center has seen an increase in people — mainly women and their children escaping domestic violence or human trafficking — seeking services.

Last year, the organization provided more than 14,164 nights of emergency shelter. This is up 6% from 2021.

Additionally, last year saw a 39% increase from the year prior for the number of meals provided on site, according to YWCA Dayton.

“The fewer clients we’re able to serve, the more individuals who are going to be less likely to flee from abusive situations,” said Fox Williams. “So we’re looking at this funding being cut and we have to think about, are we taking away an opportunity for people to empower themselves to be able to take control back over their lives because they don’t feel like they have somewhere to go?”

In 2021, Congress passed the VOCA Fix Act, to address the immediate crisis of a dwindling Crime Victims’ Fund and allow for an expanded list of fines and penalties to be distributed into the fund.

The VOCA Fix is working, but fees and fines collected are not replenishing the fund as quickly as necessary to keep victim service programs operational, according to YWCA Dayton.

“We are a safe haven and we’re going to always be here,” said Fox Williams. “But this funding is so essential for us to be able to provide that message to anyone that has experienced any type of abuse.”

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