Press Releases

Washington – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) in urging congressional appropriators to provide full funding for timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act – crucial bipartisan legislation championed by Sen. Warner and signed into law in December of 2018. The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to establish a national communications network to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults, filling a gap for missing persons who are too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert.

“This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion,” the Senators wrote in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Full funding and timely implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act is necessary to ensure the safety of Americans.” 

The Ashanti Alert will notify the public about missing or endangered adults ages 18-64. The law instructs the Attorney General to designate a national Ashanti Alert Coordinator responsible for helping states establish alert systems and develop voluntary guidelines. Under the law, the coordinator is also tasked with providing Congress with an annual report detailing the use and progress of Ashanti Alerts in states. Last month, Sen. Warner pressed Attorney General William Barr for an update on DOJ’s progress to-date in implementing the law.  

The Ashanti Alert Act was named after Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old abducted in Norfolk, Va. on September 18, 2017, whose body was discovered in North Carolina 11 days after she was first reported missing. Sen. Warner secured unanimous passage of this bill through the Senate in December 6, 2018 by working with his colleagues to make modifications to the House bill, which had previously been blocked from passing the Senate. The bill was then signed into law by President Trump on December 31, 2019.

 

Full text of the appropriations request is below and a copy can be found here.

 

The Honorable Jerry Moran

Chairman

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice,

Science and Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

142 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen

Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice,

Science and Related Agencies

Senate Committee on Appropriations

142 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

 

Dear Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Shaheen:

 

As you prepare the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 appropriations, we write to respectfully request that you work to ensure the implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act is fully funded in FY 2020.

 

On December 31, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Ashanti Alert Act of 2018 (Pub L. 115-401). The Ashanti Alert Act requires the Department of Justice to establish a national communications network, named the Ashanti Alert, to assist regional and local search efforts for certain missing adults. Under the new law, the Attorney General must designate a national coordinator to work with states to establish Ashanti Alert systems and to develop voluntary guidelines that states (as well as territories) should use in creating their networks. Last Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives secured strong bipartisan support for the legislation and it passed both chambers by a near-unanimous margin.

 

This law was borne out of the tragic death of Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old who was abducted in Norfolk, Virginia and whose body was discovered 11 days after she was first reported missing. Because Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert to be issued and no similar network for adults existed at the time, her parents, family, and friends struggled to get word out of her disappearance in a timely fashion.

 

Thus, it is imperative that the Ashanti Alert Act receives sufficient funding in order to advance its goals of transforming the lives and safety of Americans. Fully funding this program ensures that the Department of Justice, law enforcement agencies, and relevant entities and stakeholders have the necessary resources to make the Ashanti Alert network as helpful and effective as possible.

 

We hope that the Subcommittee will demonstrate strong support for the Ashanti Alert Act for FY 2020.

 

Thank you for your consideration of our request.

 

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