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PRESS RELEASE: Coalition Celebrates Introduction Of The Crime Victim And Survivor Services Funding Security Act

DENVER, CO – Colorado Supports Crime Victim Services, a coalition launched by Violence Free Colorado (VFC), Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault (CCASA), and Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance (COVA), is spearheading a first-in-the-nation solution to the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding crisis faced by Colorado victim services providers.

The Crime Victim and Survivor Services Funding Security Act, introduced in the Colorado General Assembly on Wednesday by Majority Leader Monica Duran, creates an ongoing, sustainable fund for victims’ services. HB24-1349 will refer a ballot measure to the November 2024 statewide election asking Colorado voters to approve an excise tax of 11% on the gross taxable retail sales of firearm dealers, firearms manufacturers, and ammunition vendors for all firearms, firearm precursor parts, and ammunition sold in the state. If approved, the collected revenue will fund crime victims’ services and prevention, local victim assistance and law enforcement (local VALE), mass tragedy response and gun violence prevention, and school safety.

The Crime Victim and Survivor Services Funding Security Act proposes the same excise tax levied by California’s AB-28 but focuses the revenue stream to Colorado’s victims’ services in addition to gun violence prevention and recovery. The tax on firearm and ammunition retailers proposed in this act is similar to the longstanding federal firearms and ammunition excise tax (FAET), which has placed a 10-11% excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition by manufacturers, producers, and importer since 1919.

“As a survivor of domestic violence, I am deeply committed to ensuring crime victims and survivors receive the support and services they deserve,” said House Majority Leader Monica Duran. “We cannot let Coloradans suffer in silence. In light of devastating funding cuts at the federal level, the Crime Victim and Survivor Services Funding Security Act will allow us to support the life-saving services that crime survivors need.”

Since 2021, statewide victim service coalitions have been raising the alarm on federal funding cuts. Over 200 community-based victims’ services organizations in Colorado heavily rely on federal VOCA funding to serve Coloradans who have experienced domestic and sexual violence, child abuse, and other crimes. VOCA grants to Colorado have steadily decreased from a high of $56.7 million in 2018 to a low of $18.2 million in 2021, forcing service providers to contend with inconsistent and fluctuating funding and, for many, face the difficult decision to downsize despite increasing need for victims’ services. In Fiscal Year 2024-25, Colorado expects another reduction in the VOCA Fund of 40-50%, slashing even further the limited funding provided to our community prevention and intervention programs. Additionally, the state expects the VOCA fund will continue to face cuts in the future.

“Domestic violence shelters, 24-hr crisis lines, legal advocacy centers, and all the life-saving services survivors rely on are at risk of disappearing,” said Soledad Diaz, Director of Public Policy and Community Impact at Violence Free Colorado. “This devastating VOCA cut comes just as Colorado reports a record high of domestic violence fatalities. According to the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board’s 2023 Annual Report, the vast majority of these fatalities (86%) involved firearms. Women are five times more likely to be killed by an intimate partner when a firearm is available.”

“No one plans to be a victim of crime, and they shouldn’t have to bear the burden of costs associated with healing,” said Elizabeth Newman, Public Policy Director at the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. “Victim services programs across the state are bracing for major reductions in staffing and services, and smaller, rural programs may even have to close their doors. Colorado needs to invest in these critical services so victims have access to the support and resources they need.”

“According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the number of mass shootings in Colorado have been increasing since 2014. In 2022, there were 13 mass shootings with 23 deaths and 57 injuries in Colorado,” stated Courtney Sutton, Public Policy Director at Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance. “The burden of gun violence and crime falls onto victims, survivors, families, and our communities, and our state must offer crisis support and resources to help them move through the healing journey. Victims and survivors throughout Colorado need substantial investments in victim service programs, mass tragedy response, and in violence prevention.”

The dual crisis of rising gun violence rates and dwindling investment in victims’ services threatens every community across the state. The tax specified in this Crime Victim and Survivor Services Funding Security Act is a modest tax on a profitable industry whose lawful and legitimate business activity imposes substantial harmful externalities on Colorado’s families, communities, and taxpayers. Colorado Supports Crime Victim Services applauds the Colorado General Assembly for taking action to support survivors of domestic and sexual violence. The Crime Victim and Survivor Services Funding Security Act is a critical step forward to securing sustainable funding for victims of crime, responding to the gun violence epidemic, and investing in violence prevention to make Colorado safer.