A change in the way New York will fund assistance programs for crime victims is costing local prosecutors’ offices tens of thousands of dollars to help victims, but will help more agencies across the state.
The Warren County District Attorney’s Office will receive $70,000 less for each of the next three years, while the Washington County District Attorney’s Office will receive $50,000 less over the same period. (The Saratoga County District Attorney’s Office does not receive state of Victim Services funding.)
In Washington County, that amounts to a cut of over 30 percent, District Attorney Tony Jordan said. All agencies that have received funding were notified that a cut of at least 25 percent was expected.
Jordan and Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone said the funding cut will require some adjustments to their programs, each of which includes three crime victims specialist positions to assist crime victims navigate the court system and get assistance.
Carusone said he planned to discuss the situation with county supervisors at his regular committee meeting with them later this month. How the office will adjust to the budget cut was unclear, he said.
Jordan said he believed his office will be able to absorb the funding decrease this year without having to cut a job or jobs.
The cuts to agencies come at a time when OVS is actually putting significantly more money toward crime victims assistance programs statewide. But the agency has also increased the number of agencies eligible for the money, which resulted in the pool of funding being split with 50 more agencies going forward. Agencies receive money based on scoring in a competitive process.
One agency that will get funding going forward that hasn’t in the past is the Salvation Army of Saratoga County.
In all, 228 victim assistance programs will receive state funding annually over the next three years.
Janine Kava, a spokeswoman for the state Office of Victim Services, said the state increased the amount of funding that was made available for victims services to $281 million, the highest amount on record, despite cuts in funding to the state from the federal government.
However, the amount of requests for funding was more than double the money that was available, Kava said.
“The agency’s goal was to fund as many programs as possible in every region of the state in response to tremendous demand. Unfortunately, the federal award to OVS this year was far lower than last year, so the agency had much less funding available to administer. This was exacerbated by a significant increase in the amount of funding requested from applicants. Those requests exceeded available funding by $196 million. These factors made it impossible for OVS to fully fund all requests,” Kava said in an email.
“While we recognize the important role that district attorneys’ offices play in providing victim services, especially in small and rural counties, it was critical to ensure there were other programs and services available to meet the diverse needs of victims across the state and prevent service gaps,” Kava added.
Much of the funding comes from fees and surcharges paid by those convicted of crimes.
Jordan said the cut to DA’s offices is occurring as state law is changing and bail reform will mean more offenders will be out of jail, likely increasing the workload of crime victims specialists.
“I think now more than ever there will be a need for more contact with victims,” he said.