Mainers believe in the concepts of community, kindness and standing up for what is right. A major part of that is supporting people in the aftermath of trauma. That’s why I have introduced L.D. 2084, “An Act to Provide Funding for Essential Services for Victims of Crimes.”

The Legislature frequently discusses systems that need to be improved or changed. Rarely do we take time to appreciate systems that are already working well. The network of victim support services within our state is one of those programs. Traditionally, funding for these programs has been provided by federal Victims of Crime Act funds. However, that funding has declined dramatically. In order to maintain to support Maine’s vital network of victim services, we need to support the continued existence of our comprehensive, effective and efficient network of services and providers.

L.D. 2084 will keep this network from collapsing. The Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA) has used federal funding gathered through forfeited bail bonds, penalties and special assessments collected by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices, federal courts and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. These funds go to all states to support services for victims of violent crimes, but the federal funds have dwindled to the point where Maine is expected to suffer a 60% decrease in critical support for victim services.

If the state does not supplement VOCA funds, there will be substantial across-the-board cuts to victim services in Maine.

VOCA funds are used for a wide variety of services. The largest recipient of VOCA funding is the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence and local domestic violence agencies. These agencies provide access to shelters, support for crime victims while going through the legal system, and maintain the 24/7 domestic violence helpline and shelters. Maine faces the potential closure of one of only two shelters available for trafficking survivors in our state.

The Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and local sexual assault centers, as well as Children’s Advocacy Centers, are the second largest recipients of VOCA funding. These funds also assist 24/7 helplines and support sexual assault survivors from trips to the hospital for forensic examinations to accompaniment to civil and criminal proceedings. The Child Advocacy Centers conduct interviews used as evidence to hold child sexual predators accountable.


The third largest recipient of VOCA funds is Pine Tree Legal Assistance. I know from my years as a volunteer with PTLA the value of the attorneys who represent domestic and sexual violence survivors. PTLA offers statewide representation from Presque Isle to Portland. These essential services in more rural areas of the state are at risk with cuts to VOCA funding.

VOCA funding also supports court-appointed special advocates in child protective cases in the judicial branch, services for older Mainers in our community through Legal Services for the Elderly and the Elder Abuse Institute of Maine, and for a variety of crime victims through Victim Witness Advocates at the Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Corrections and local District Attorney’s offices.

All Mainers should be grateful to this network of VOCA-funded crisis support providers for the critical role they played in the immediate aftermath of the shootings in Lewiston in October. The homicide victim services team met with victims, helped family members recover their loved one’s remains and assisted families in accessing funds to help with funeral expenses. Many families of those killed, survivors and first responders continue to be supported by Maine’s victim services network.

If you are wondering if this is truly a crisis, the answer is yes.

Maine faces a cut of more than 60% to our core VOCA-funded services. And if you are wondering about a federal solution to this funding problem, please know that providers have worked closely with the four members of our Congressional delegation over the last four years. I personally have asked the White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention to work with Congress to resolve the crisis. They are all trying, but Congress as a whole has not stepped up to address this issue.

Now is the time for Mainers to step up to take care of Mainers who are victims of crime. I am hopeful that my colleagues in Augusta agree and I urge them to support these critical services.

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