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Marion County agency pleads for VOCA funding

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 5:15 PM EDT
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FAIRMONT, W.Va (WDTV) - Local agencies that serve victims of crime are speaking out about cuts in funding, and one advocate says the number of people affected in Marion County could be well in the thousands.

“They’re going to be left in the dark,” said Victims Advocate for the Marion County Prosecuting Attorney’s office Kimberly Hawkins.

Hawkins, along with other agencies, are expecting large cuts in federal funding. So much so that it could affect them for the next few years and create challenges that make it much harder to serve the community. However, Hawkins says the people she serves could be affected as soon as October. She explained, “In our office, we still have to help all the victims, we still have to serve all the victims, it’s just making it harder to do.”

Hawkins estimates that 23-39 percent of her funding will be cut, with more than 1,200 new cases alone; and that only showcases a small number of those who will be affected.

Even after President Biden signed the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021-- this will not be beneficial to Hawkins as she says this is helpful funding to victims themselves, not her program.

The West Virginia Department of Homeland Security shared a statement with WDTV saying, “The requests and recommendations for the latest round of grant funding remain under review. The administration is also awaiting federal guidance following last month’s signing of the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act of 2021.”

This is why Hawkins says if something isn’t done soon, drastic changes will happen and affect kids in the area more than anything. “You are looking at 5-year-olds to 17-year-olds, and if they don’t have a victims advocate, I’m not sure what happens to them, I’m not sure what help they get,” she said.

Hawkins also said that they may have to turn to the governor for help or seek more funding from the county commission to provide their services.

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