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Family Justice Center to ask Buncombe Co. to help fill gaps in declining federal funding

By on September 21, 2021 0

Leaders at the Buncombe County Family Justice Center will ask county commissioners on Tuesday, September 21, to help fill the gaps in what declining federal funding will not cover.

The Family Justice Center in Buncombe helps victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse. It is the only family justice center in the state to have received victims of crime law money this round of awards. The VOCA money is allocated to the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission, which then disburses it locally.

The money for the VOCA fund does not come from taxpayers. They come from criminal fines, penalties, forfeited bonds and special assessments collected by the federal government. But that fund has shrunk, with the Justice Department increasing its use of deferred and no-prosecution agreements, which often involve heavy financial penalties, but are not technically criminal convictions, so they cannot be used for l ‘VOCA money.

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Due to the dwindling fund, the Buncombe County FJC will only receive $ 874,097 from VOCA over the next two years, although it will need $ 1,132,510 to maintain existing service levels. That’s why the centre’s leaders are asking for a county contribution of $ 258,413 over the next 24 months. On Tuesday, they will ask for a budget amendment of $ 96,905, which would represent nine months of the total contribution requested by the county.

“I think the message we really want to get to our commissioners is the importance of sustainability for services of this nature,” said Paulina Mendez, director of the family justice division.

If the county does not intervene, the FJC could face serious service cuts from October, Mendez said.

“After eliminating the training, travel, and things needed to refine our ability to provide these services, we should further reduce by about 23% all of our partner agencies and all the different positions we contract with,” she said. “It sounds like about 75 hours less service provided to survivors per week.”

She said the decrease in federal funding is frustrating, due to the increasing prevalence of domestic violence and other forms of intimate partner violence in the mountains.

“It lives in the shadows, but we know that to eradicate it we have to be able to light it up. So with limited resources we are not able to shine as bright as a light and it will keep on shining. happen in our communities, ”Mendez said.“ We have the ability to interrupt intergenerational trauma. We have the opportunity to save lives now, and adequate funding is needed to do these things. “

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The VOCA cuts also come at a time when supplies are resuming at the FJC and cases are becoming increasingly severe and complex.

“While we may not have gone back to the numbers before the pandemic, the numbers we have are always taking more staff time, always using more services, because they are just more complex,” Mendez said. .

There is some light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to VOCA, however.

In July, Congress passed the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021. It will amend the law to allow penalties and fines resulting from non-prosecution and deferred prosecution agreements, which the Department of Justice uses. now more frequently for VOCA. It will restore billions of dollars in essential funding for survivors of violence. But Mendez said organizations won’t feel the impact of “VOCA Fix” for some time.

“What is important to note with the VOCA Fix is ​​that even though there is a light at the end of the tunnel, we are not going to see these funds for the next three to four years”, a- she declared. “So we’re still in the tunnel.”