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Congress Commits $41M to Clear Rape-Kit Backlog

(CN) - After months of delay, Congress has allocated $41 million to help municipalities throughout the country process backlogged sexual assault evidence kits.

The funding in the omnibus federal spending bill funds a new Justice Department program designed to help states, cities and other communities test backlogs of sexual assault evidence kits -- commonly called "rape kits" - which include DNA evidence collected after attacks.

According to some estimates, there are more than 100,000 untested kits sitting on evidence room shelves across the country. In most cases this is because state and local governments haven't had the money to process them.

President Obama originally asked Congress to fund the program in March, and it appeared close to happening early last summer when congressional leaders got into a dispute over unrelated amendments to the spending bill.

After Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tabled the bill, Congress passed a short-term spending bill in September that left the rape kit funding aside. That left its fate up in the air until Tuesday night, when congressional negotiators announced they'd reached a deal on a $1.1 trillion spending bill.

The announcement came two weeks after Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. announced he is offering $35 million in civil forfeiture assets to help municipalities defray the cost of processing the evidence kits.

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