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Remarks as Prepared for Delivery by OVC Director Jessica E. Hart During the 2020 Spring VOCA Administrators Virtual Meeting

Thanks so much Katie. Good afternoon or morning to those of you on the west coast!

Before I get started, I want highlight the focus Katie has had on this program and working with all of you.

When I first came on-board, she stressed to me the importance of the work you all do and she made it a priority to make sure you are getting the support you need from OVC.

I'll discuss some of those new programs a bit later, but I want you all to know she has really been a champion for supporting you all since joining OJP and we appreciate all her efforts. So, a big thank you to Katie!

I also want to say thank you to Shelby Crawford, Kate Peterson and her team, and the staff at OVC's Training and Technical Assistance Center who worked so hard to make this event happen.

Our partnership with you all is invaluable, so I'm excited to virtually "meet" you and tell you a little bit about myself. I look forward to hopefully meeting you all sometime soon.

As Katie mentioned, I was appointed the Director in late March, and as you can imagine it has been an unusual start to my time here. The silver lining for me though has been the opportunity to see, through these difficult times, how resolutely our staff and all of you fulfills the mission of helping crime victims.

I recognize the importance of the work VOCA administrators do every day to ensure victims of crime are receiving the services they need. I want to ensure that we at OVC are doing everything we can to support you and we've recently taken a number of steps to do just that.

We've hired three grant management specialists to join the team—Ramesa Pitts started several weeks ago, Shawn Cook just joined us on Monday, and our third hire will be starting in another week.

Our new grant management specialists join our already amazing team who most of you know: Deserea, Joel, Jalila, and Brian. As you all know, this team has a wealth of grant administration and victim service experience.

In recognition of the variety of work that this team does to supports states in administering the assistance and compensation formula dollars, I'm pleased to announce their new division name, suggested by Jalila and voted on by the entire team—the State Victim Resource Division. The new name reflects OVC's commitment to expanding resources to help states ensure that victims in their communities receive services and compensation.

You will see OVC's commitment to prioritizing state support through additional grant initiatives intended to help states administer VOCA dollars. I’d like to briefly touch on a few of these initiatives.

OVC anticipates awarding states over $17 million of discretionary funding this fiscal year for these and other important initiatives.

We've heard from many of you that SAAs need specialized, targeted training and technical assistance. So this year, OVC will award up to $5 million to provide peer-to-peer training and technical assistance on federal grants management and administration for VOCA victim assistance administrators and subgrantees. We expect that the selected TTA provider will begin their work in early 2021.

To bridge the gap between now and early 2021, we’ve awarded a training and technical assistance contract to help states with obligating and expending their FY 2017 and 2018 assistance dollars to support victims of crime.

We also know that it can sometimes be difficult for states to reach underserved victims, particularly older victims or those in rural and Tribal areas. The State Victim Liaison Project aims to identify and close gaps in victim services by embedding experienced crime victim liaisons within select SAAs. These liaisons will live and work within the state and territory and act as a bridge between the state and other state-based NGOs to increase access to resources for crime victims. We anticipate making up to 10 awards for this project, at a maximum cost of about $4.7 million.

On the compensation side, the Crime Victim Compensation Program Assessment will help states assess victims' access to compensation programs and implement recommendations.

Our goal is to really work to increase the number of victims aware of this vital resource, and ultimately, the number of victims receiving compensation. We anticipate providing up to $2.1 million for 6 awards through this program.

The last grant initiative doubles as another OVC staffing announcement. Later this year OVC will welcome a new VOCA Victim Compensation Fellow. This individual will connect with Compensation Administrators to identify ways OVC can better support states as they administer victim compensation programs.

To wrap up, I want to let you all know I am immensely grateful to all of you who are working so hard to deliver vital services to victims.

Many administrators and grantees have told me difficult stories of how COVID-19 is stretching resources and requiring innovative solutions to victim outreach and care. Recently, nine states joined on a webinar to share substantive best practices about how to help grantees through these difficult times. It is exactly this expertise-sharing that will inform OVC's programming efforts.

With that said, I'm excited to be here with you today and look forward to hearing your thoughts about how we can better support you. I will also always value your expertise.

Thank you again for allowing me the opportunity to introduce myself, and for traveling all the way here from your living rooms. I look forward to getting to know each of you better in the months and years to come!

Date Published: June 10, 2020