UNITED STATES NEWS

Takeaways from AP’s report on financial hurdles in state crime victim compensation programs

Jul 25, 2023, 9:36 AM

Thousands of crime victims each year are confronted with the difficult financial reality of state compensation programs that are billed as safety nets to offset costs like funerals, medical care, relocation and other needs.

Many programs require victims to pay for those expenses first and exhaust all means of payment before they reimburse costs, often at rates that don’t fully cover expenses. The programs also struggle under often unstable funding mechanisms that leave their budgets vulnerable to shortages and the changing priorities of lawmakers, especially those that rely on court fees and fines as their main source or only source of funding.

Pamela White turned to Louisiana’s victim compensation board for help when her son, Dararius Evans, was killed in a shooting a few days after Christmas in 2019. She was met with administrative hurdles, a denial that blamed her son for his own death, a lengthy appeal — all while paying up front through a personal loan that gathered interest as she waited.

In the end, White won her appeal and was awarded $5,000 — the maximum amount available at the time, but it didn’t cover her full loan or the interest.

As part of a series examining crime victim compensation programs, The Associated Press found racial inequities and other barriers in how many states deny claims. The AP also found victims in a dozen states were the driving force in legislative reforms to address some of those barriers.

Here is a look at key takeaways from the third installment in that series.

PROGRAMS OFTEN PUT THE UPFRONT FINANCIAL BURDEN ON VICTIMS

Advocates say most states’ requirements that victims pay upfront can leave out people living on the edge of financial disaster who are often most vulnerable to a crime.

“So many families often can’t rely solely on that reimbursement model. … Those funds take months to arrive to families,” said Aswad Thomas, vice president of the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit working to reform victim compensation and other aspects of the criminal justice system.

Some programs offer to directly pay funeral homes or medical providers. And many states offer emergency awards to help victims through the immediate aftermath of crime, but advocates say those awards are restrictive, capped as low as $500, and are deducted from any later award. About a dozen states don’t offer emergency awards at all.

Programs also require victims to exhaust other payment options first, like insurance, lawsuit awards or even crowdfunding. If a family member or friend starts a GoFundMe drive, it could cause some programs to reduce an award or claw back already granted money.

MANY STATES HAVEN’T INCREASED AWARD AMOUNTS IN DECADES

The Associates Press found that the maximum awards states provide ranged from $10,000 to $190,000, though two states did not have overall caps on awards. Some of those amounts haven’t been increased since the 1970s.

Programs have lagged less in raising limits on individual expenses like funerals. But many states don’t offer enough money to cover the actual cost of burying a loved one. The National Funeral Directors Association estimated the median cost of a funeral with burial vault was more than $9,400 in 2021. Only a dozen states offer enough to cover that median cost.

FUNDING FOR STATE PROGRAMS IS OFTEN UNSTABLE

About a dozen states get most or all of their funding from recurring state budget dollars. But many states have put the onus of paying for the programs on people in the criminal justice system – court fines, taking a percentage of prisoner wages or prison commissary fees.

Those funding streams can fluctuate greatly. Temporary court closures early in the COVID-19 pandemic, and well-intentioned prison and criminal justice reforms aimed at reducing incarceration have caused shortfalls in some states that rely heavily on court or prison fines and fees for funding.

A handful of state legislatures have used one-time general fund infusions to plug budget holes created by the downstream effects of those reforms. In Hawaii, shortfalls nearly caused the compensation program to close in 2022 until an influx of general funds “saved” the program, according to an annual report.

___

Catalini reported from Trenton, New Jersey. Lauer reported from Philadelphia.

___

The Associated Press receives support from the Public Welfare Foundation for reporting focused on criminal justice. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

United States News

Passengers wait at Benito Juárez International Airport in Mexico City, Friday, July 19, 2024. Some...

Associated Press

8.5 million computers running Windows affected by faulty update from CrowdStrike

As the world continues to recover from massive business and travel disruptions caused by a faulty software update from cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, malicious actors are trying to exploit the situation for their own gain. Government cybersecurity agencies across the globe and even CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz are warning businesses and individuals around the world about […]

1 hour ago

FILE - This April 18, 2024, photo released by the Utah Department of Corrections shows death row in...

Associated Press

Utah scraps untested lethal drug combination for man’s August execution

Utah officials said Saturday that they are scrapping plans to use an untested lethal drug combination in next month’s planned execution of a man in a 1998 murder case. They will instead seek out a drug that’s been used previously in executions in numerous states. Defense attorneys for Taberon Dave Honie, 49, had sued in […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Plane crash near Ohio airport kills 3; federal authorities investigating

VIENNA, Ohio (AP) — A plane trying to make an emergency landing at an airport in northeastern Ohio crashed, killing all three people aboard, authorities said. The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that the twin-engine Beechcraft 60 went down near the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in Ohio at about 6:45 p.m. Friday. The Ohio State Highway […]

3 hours ago

Firefighters battle a fire at First Baptist Dallas church on Friday, July 19, 2024, in Dallas. (Chi...

Associated Press

A fire severely damages the historic First Baptist Dallas church sanctuary

A fire all but destroyed the historic church sanctuary at First Baptist Dallas, sending smoke billowing over the city but causing no deaths or injuries, Dallas firefighters said. The fire in the Texas Historic Landmark, a Victorian-style red brick church built in 1890, was reported about 6:30 p.m. Friday, and contained about three hours later, […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

New Hampshire Gov. Sununu signs bill banning transgender girls from girls’ sports

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire has signed a bill that would ban transgender athletes in grades 5-12 from teams that align with their gender identity, adding the state to nearly half in the nation that adopted similar measures. The bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature would require schools to […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers call for Biden to drop reelection bid

A rapidly growing chorus of Democratic lawmakers called Friday for President Joe Biden to drop his reelection bid, even as the president insisted he’s read y to return to the campaign trail next week to counter what he called a “dark vision” laid out by Republican Donald Trump. As more Democratic members of Congress urged […]

6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

Takeaways from AP’s report on financial hurdles in state crime victim compensation programs