Thank you, Mr. Attorney General. It is an honor to join you, Vanita, Amy [Solomon], Kris [Rose], and the outstanding team in the Office of Justice Programs’ Office for Victims of Crime, as well as our partners and allies from across the country.
Let me add my congratulations and appreciation to all our award recipients. They have set a high bar of commitment and service toward the goal of justice for countless crime victims and survivors of crime. In recognizing these extraordinary individuals and teams, we find the truth in the claim, often attributed to Margaret Mead, that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can, indeed, change the world.
You are managing shelters, operating crisis centers, serving victims in homes and hospitals, and helping victims raise their voices in the courtroom. You have kept your doors – both physical and virtual – open during a global pandemic, when many victims were isolated and vulnerable. You have gone to extraordinary lengths to deliver vital services to survivors in every community. And you have accomplished that most essential of tasks – you have put victims at the center of every conversation about public safety and equal justice.
You have all helped to change the world for victims. Whether a place of comfort, a source of strength, or a necessary resource, you have helped victims to stand up again and move forward as survivors.
Crime and violence continue to touch millions of lives, and the goal of just and fair treatment remains elusive for many. Victims too often feel their rights are ignored, they find avenues of support inaccessible, and they sometimes discover that the services available in one community are missing in their own. The aspirations built into this year’s theme – “Rights, access, equity, for all victims” – remains a promise, not a reality, for far too many.
But you – all of you here today – are working to fulfill that promise, and the department is proud to stand with you to ensure all victims can access justice. Our nation owes you a debt.
The Biden Administration is proud to support you in this critical work. Last summer, the President signed the VOCA Fix into law, giving us new tools to stabilize the Crime Victims Fund. Fines from deferred prosecutions and non-prosecution agreements can now be channeled into the Fund, rather than going into the general fund of the Treasury. And we are beginning to see the impact of that law. In March alone, this new collection stream brought in almost a quarter-billion dollars. While we don’t see that level of collection every month, I’m hopeful that the flexibility allowed by the VOCA Fix will yield a more consistent source of support in the coming years for VOCA administrators, service providers and – ultimately – victims themselves.
In the meantime, we continue to work hard to deliver critical resources to the field. Last year, our Office for Victims of Crime awarded more than $1.2 billion to states and territories to fund victim assistance and victim compensation programs. Another $40 million went to support sexual assault and elder abuse victims, survivors of human trafficking, LGBTQ+ victims as well as those in historically marginalized and underserved communities. And OVC awarded more than $100 million to reach American Indian and Alaska Native victims through grant funding set aside specifically for tribal communities.
We are very proud of these investments, but we know that the hard work of supporting victims falls most heavily to you on the front lines. You are the ones who translate these financial resources into services. You are the ones putting in the long hours, traveling the great distances, intervening in moments of danger, and standing by victims in their time of greatest need. You are the heroes.
We thank you for all you do, and we commend you for your exceptional service.