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Sanders OKs $17M for crime victims

by Michael R. Wickline | September 1, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks Jan. 19 during an event at the state Capitol in Little Rock. (File Photo/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has approved providing $17 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds to crime victim-serving organizations in Arkansas to offset the loss of federal Victims of Crime Act funds, the Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas announced Wednesday.

The governor's request for authorization to use $17 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds for this purpose will be presented to the Arkansas Legislative Council in September, said Scott Hardin, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance and Administration. The Legislative Council is slated to meet Sept. 15.

In March of 2021, President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act that is designed to help the United States recover from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $17 million request would be financed from Arkansas' American Rescue Plan state fiscal recovery funds, Hardin said. Arkansas was awarded $1.57 billion in American Rescue Plan state fiscal recovery funds and $426.6 million of those funds are currently unallocated, he said.

American Rescue Plan funds must be fully committed to projects by Dec. 31, 2024, and distributed to those projects by Dec. 31, 2026, according to Hardin.

Elizabeth Pulley, executive director of Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, said in the group's news release that Sanders made reducing crime and advocating for victims one of her top priorities and delivered on those during this year's regular session by signing the Protect Act into law.

"We are thankful that Governor Sanders has approved our funding request that will support the work of 118 victim advocacy groups across the state of Arkansas," she said.

Decreased revenues from federal criminal fines and fees have created a sustainability and cash flow issue with federal Victims of Crime Act grants, according to the Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas.

During the past five years, the amount of federal Victims of Crime Act funds distributed to Arkansas has dramatically dropped annually from its high of $30.6 million in 2018 to $13.1 million in 2022, the group said, but requests for funding by crime victim serving organizations have increased significantly each year.

Without this additional funding, the amount awarded in Victims of Crime Act grants this federal funding cycle would have been cut by an estimated 60% to 70%, rendering it difficult for crime victim serving organizations to provide services across Arkansas and making bridge funding from the state essential, according to the Children's Advocacy Centers of Arkansas.

Loss of Victims of Crime Act funding would have a detrimental impact on child advocacy centers across the state, with up to 30-50% of child advocacy centers' operational budgets funded through federal Victims of Crime Act, the group said.

In addition to Children Advocacy Centers of Arkansas, Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Arkansas Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Ozark Rape Crisis Center, and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, and numerous other crime victim serving organizations would benefit from this one-time funding, the Children's Advocacy Centers said in its news release.

Children's Advocacy Centers help children and their families deal with the aftermath of child abuse. The children's advocacy center network has worked countless hours to provide help to more than 10,000 children and families in 2022, and the number of children receiving services has more than doubled during the past five years, according to the group.

Print Headline: Sanders OKs $17M for crime victims


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