On Tuesday, the Senate passed the Debbie Smith Reauthorization Act of 2019 by unanimous consent, authorizing the Justice Department to spend up to $151 million in grants to states and localities to address the rape kit backlog. The bipartisan bill was first enacted in 2004, reauthorized in 2008 and 2014, but failed to pass the Senate in 2019 before it expired on Sept. 30. The now-passed 2019 bill funds backlog testing through FY 2024.
According to the National Institute of Justice, since 2005, Debbie Smith funding is responsible for 192,000—or about 42 percent—of DNA matches in the FBI database. Without the act and funding, it is likely most of the nearly 200,000 cases would have gone unsolved.
“Too many victims of violent crime are being denied justice because forensic labs across this country don’t have the resources to process DNA evidence – the Debbie Smith DNA Backlog Grant Program is changing that,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) in a statement released Tuesday. “When the Debbie Smith Act first passed, it was called the ‘the most important anti-rape legislation ever signed into law.’ The results of the grant program speak for themselves. This funding keeps rapists and other criminals off the streets. And equally important, the program is instrumental in delivering some measure of justice to survivors of violence. I urge the President to sign this reauthorization bill immediately.”