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Bill would boost ‘woefully inadequate’ funds for crime victims by $8 million

Crime victims can apply for emergency state funds to help them recover from what they have suffered.

But only $150,000 is available in that emergency fund annually. Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL-St. Paul) calls that “woefully inadequate” to meet the needs of crime victims.

She sponsors HF861, which would boost funding to $4 million in each of the upcoming two fiscal years with the expectation of that becoming the base appropriation.

The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee held the bill over Tuesday for possible omnibus bill inclusion. The companion, SF2104, sponsored by Sen. Sandra Pappas (DFL-St. Paul), awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

Appropriated dollars would go to the Office of Justice Programs in the Department of Public Safety for grants to victim survivors of crime to support their needs and alleviate the impact of crime on them.

The intent of the legislation is that grants would primarily be available to domestic and sexual violence victims, Hollins said.

The office would be required to develop eligibility requirements for grant recipients and mechanisms for distributing funds in consultation with Violence Free Minnesota, Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Minnesota Alliance on Crime, Minnesota Indian Women’s Sexual Assault Coalition and Sacred Hoop Coalition.

“Direct financial assistance helps with the mitigation of chaotic situations, and provides safety, security, and stability for victims and survivors,” said Artika Roller, executive director of the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

In the aftermath of a domestic or sexual assault, a victim is focused on the immediate needs of being safe, which often means paying rent on a new place, Roller said.

Removing a victim from an unsafe domestic situation is critical, said Katie Kramer, policy director of Violence Free Minnesota.

“Providing a victim of domestic violence with money to secure stable housing not only reduces rates of homelessness, it also reduces rates of future violence,” Kramer said.

Greater Minnesota would benefit greatly from these funds, Roller said, as crime victim services are particularly scarce outside of the metro area.

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