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Federal bill includes funding for Ashanti Alert

Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine said the bill allocates $1M to implement the federal missing persons program nationwide.

NORFOLK, Va. — More money is on the way to support the Ashanti Alert across the country. 

According to Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, a new funding bill includes $1 million for the federal alert system for missing or endangered adults. 

The Ashanti Alert became law in 2018 and created a federal alert for critically missing adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years old. 

RELATED: The Ashanti Alert Pilot Program is now ready, states can apply for funding for new alert system

Delegate Don Scott (D-Portsmouth) is one of the people who advocated for the program. 

"It's a start, and I think you always have to be grateful for the continuation of this conversation," said Scott. 

The Ashanti Alert is named after 19-year-old Ashanti Billie. September 18 marks five years since she went missing in Norfolk. 

Billie disappeared in 2017 from JEB Little Creek-Fort Story. Her body was found in Charlotte, North Carolina 11 days later. 

The man accused of abducting and killing Billie, Eric Brown, remains behind bars.

RELATED: Family of Ashanti Billie to mark 4th anniversary of her disappearance with a call to action

Ashanti was too old for an Amber Alert and too young for a Silver Alert. 

In a joint statement, Warner and Kaine said, "The Ashanti Alert saves lives but only if given the tools to do so." 

According to their offices, there is a need for about $1 million annually in federal dollars to cover expenses associated with the federal part of the program. They said more money is needed at the state level to support each state's implementation efforts. 

In recent months, police have issued multiple Ashanti Alerts in Hampton Roads, including searches for Marie Covington out of Virginia Beach, and Shanitia Eure Lewis in Newport News.

RELATED: Officers 'making progress' in search for missing Newport News mother

Scott, an attorney, also represents the Billie family and said he is thankful for the progress and efforts of his federal colleagues. However, he believes there is still work to be done. 

“It may seem long, but I know that this is how this fight goes. And I think this is a big step forward," he said.

The bill is expected to go before a Senate committee later this year before it can be considered on the Senate floor.

Here is the full statement from Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine on the funding: 

“Ashanti Billie, a 19-year-old Virginia native was abducted and murdered on her way to work in 2017, but because of her age she did not qualify for an Amber or Silver Alert. In response to Ashanti’s tragic death, we were proud to pass the Ashanti Alert Act to create a new federal alert system for missing or endangered adults between the ages of 18-64. The Ashanti Alert saves lives, but only if given the tools to do so. We’re proud to continue working to secure the federal dollars needed to support the important expansion of this program.”

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