From the Director's Desk, January 12, 2023
OVC Principal Deputy Director Katherine Darke Schmitt discusses National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, resources for those interested in funding and peer review opportunities, the status of the Crime Victims Fund, and more.
KATHERINE DARKE SCHMITT: Good afternoon, everyone. And welcome to 2023. I hope the new year brought with it a feeling of renewal for you. At OVC, we’ve spent these first two weeks reflecting on our efforts over the last year to uphold the priorities of the office—increasing options, access, and information for all victims and survivors of crime—and setting a course for the year ahead.
- We’re hoping to fund new programs that will establish peer-to-peer support services and build relationships with national membership organizations.
- We’re going to continue building the capacity of our grant programs through training and technical assistance initiatives.
- We’re going to begin work on standards of care for service providers to reduce potential harm to trafficking survivors and promote uniform service standards that will ensure consistent quality of care.
- We’re continuing our work on modernizing the guidelines by developing a VOCA Victim Compensation Rule.
- We’re launching a pilot program to assist Tribal communities with their funding applications.
- We’re hosting our second candlelight vigil on the National Mall.
It’s going to be an exciting year and what better way to kick it off than commemorating OVC’s 20-year anniversary of our anti-trafficking efforts.
OVC awarded the first federal grant to respond to human trafficking in 1998. Two years later, the TVPA authorized the Attorney General to make grants to victim service organizations to develop, expand, or strengthen services for victims of human trafficking. Two years after that, in 2002, Congress appropriated $10 million for the Services for Trafficking Victims Discretionary Grant Program and designated OVC to administer the funding through which OVC awarded the first 12 grants.
Twenty years later, OVC is managing over 500 anti-trafficking awards representing more than $361 million dollars. This is the largest anti-trafficking portfolio across the federal government!
In recognition of this anniversary, and in alignment with National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, we’ve released a commemoration guide that highlights our theme for the month—Collaboration, Transformation, and Impact. The guide includes artwork, content, and other resources that you can use to join us in renewing our commitment to serving all victims of human trafficking; and supporting anti-trafficking stakeholders across the country. You can download the guide at ovc.ojp.gov.
In January, as outlined in the Presidential Proclamation commemorating National Stalking Awareness Month, “we shine a light on the insidious crime of stalking, recommit to protecting survivors, and reaffirm that every American deserves to live free from fear, intimidation, and threats to their physical safety and emotional well-being.” We’ve collected a number of resources and tools in one place on our website to help you build awareness of stalking and serve victims, including the OVC-supported DocuSAFE app that helps survivors collect, store, and share evidence of abuse. See our “Featured Resources” for more information.
On to the CVF update! The FY '23 Congressional Omnibus Spending Bill, with an obligation cap of $1.9 billion, passed at the end of December. The balance of the Crime Victims Fund is currently $1.73 billion, but that doesn’t include December receipts, which we should receive any day now.
If you remember, the President’s Budget requested a cap of $1.75 billion, so we’re not as close to the cap in the approved budget of $1.9 billion, but we’ll see how the December numbers shake out. The budget also eliminates the transfer of CVF funding to the Office on Violence Against Women—OVW will now receive their own appropriation—and the budget includes the Tribal Set-Aside of 5 percent again, which equates to $95 million dollars. And, based on our current statutory set-aside projections, we anticipate that the states will receive just over $1.5 billion in formula funding, which is slightly less than in Fiscal Year 2022,when the total was $1.6 billion, but more than in Fiscal Year 2021, where the total was $1.2 billion).
As I mentioned in my last briefing, the CVF supports many efforts that enable federal and non-governmental organizations to provide services to victims and survivors. A portion of that funding is dedicated to discretionary grant programs, and I want to encourage everyone to review OVC’s anticipated FY 2023 discretionary grant programs which are posted in the DOJ Program Plan at justice.gov.
We are hoping to reach even more organizations this year with our outreach about available funding opportunities. The Director will be covering them in her monthly briefings, and we’ll continue using our staple outreach methods, so make sure to connect with us on social media and sign up for News From OVC listserv.
But we’re also hosting educational webinars and we’re starting them early. We just hosted a webinar on navigating OVC’s resources—a sort of OVC 101 for programs and organizations that might not be familiar with OVC. We covered the OVC website, funding resources, training and technical assistance offerings, and more. But what was unique about this webinar was that we held it in English and Spanish. As far as any of us can recall, this is the first time OVC has offered a webinar for Spanish speakers—everything was in Spanish; the presentation, the chat, the PowerPoint slides—and we were so pleased with the amount of engagement during the webinar.
I also had the opportunity to participate in OJP’s webinar on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through OJP Grantmaking.
Most of these grant programs will be funded through a competitive application process. And a critical component of that process is peer review. The peer review phase calls upon experts in the field to review applications and assist us at OVC in making recommendations about which grant applications to fund.
We know that those of you working in the field, whether you’re working in Tribal justice, victim services, prosecution, law enforcement, healthcare, or have lived experience are best positioned to provide insight on trends and promising approaches that are needed to best serve victims. Those insights play a significant role in helping us make funding decisions.
So, if you are not already a peer reviewer, I really encourage you to check out the “Peer Reviewer” section of our website for further details. On this page, you can watch our Become an OVC Peer Reviewer webinar that we hosted last year. The panelists provide details about the peer reviewer role and their responsibilities, and you get to hear from experienced reviewers. We hosted the webinar last year in an effort to reach practitioners with diverse backgrounds and expertise who could review applications for programs that serve underheard and underrepresented communities across the country.
We want peer reviewers who truly understand the needs communities. It only makes sense!
So, if you’re interested in informing federal government spending, ensuring the communities you support are being served, networking with others in the field, and getting reimbursed for your expertise, please join us. As I said, information about peer reviewing is available on our website at ovc.ojp.gov.
Thank you so much for joining me today.
Opinions or points of view expressed in these recordings represent those of the speakers and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. Any commercial products and manufacturers discussed in these recordings are presented for informational purposes only and do not constitute product approval or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Justice.