Legislation Adopted as Part of FY 2018 Budget Takes Effect Today, Tuesday, October 17
Change Expands Eligibility to Victims of Hate Crimes and Certain Other Offenses Who Were Not Physically Injured
New Provision Also Allows State to Compensate Vulnerable Elderly and Disabled Individuals Who Have Lost up to $30,000 in Savings Because of the Crime
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York has expanded eligibility for crime victims' compensation, further widening the safety net for individuals who have no other way to pay expenses resulting from the crime. Victims of hate crimes and certain other offenses who are not physically injured, and vulnerable elderly or disabled individuals incapable of caring for themselves who have lost up to $30,000 in savings, can now seek compensation from the state Office of Victim Services.
"Ensuring that crime victims receive the support they need to recover and restore a sense of normalcy to their lives is vitally important," Governor Cuomo said. "These changes to expand compensation eligibility demonstrate New York's continued commitment to helping vulnerable New Yorkers and people who are victimized by crime."
Legislation expanding eligibility takes effect today and applies to claims filed with the Office of Victim Services on or after this date. The agency provides compensation to eligible victims and their family members for expenses incurred because of the crime, such as medical and counseling bills, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages and support, among other assistance. Before this legislative change, however, eligibility for compensation was limited to victims who suffered physical injuries, with some exceptions, generally involving domestic violence-related crimes.
For example, an individual who suffered broken bones during a hate crime-related assault has always been eligible for compensation, but someone traumatized by extensive damage done to their home because of a hate crime was ineligible for assistance to pay for counseling. The law also eliminates the physical injury requirement for victims of certain robbery, menacing, criminal mischief, harassment, aggravated harassment and criminal contempt charges.
The change also allows vulnerable elderly individuals and disabled individuals - defined in state law as those who are incapable of caring for themselves - to recoup up to $30,000 in savings. Previously, the Office of Victim Services could only reimburse victims to this extent for loss of support or earnings. State law also includes an age requirement for vulnerable elderly: at least 60 years old.
Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, "Crime victims don't need to suffer from a physical injury to be scarred from their ordeal. Those who fall victim to hate crimes, elder abuse and other serious crimes such as those which may be charged for a carjacking find themselves deeply traumatized and in need of a helping hand. This legislative change will allow us to extend assistance to an even greater number of innocent crime victims so they can start their journey toward recovery."
These legislative changes come at no cost to taxpayers. Funding for crime victims' compensation and the cost of the agency's day-to-day operations comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following conviction in New York State or federal courts.
The Office of Victim Services (www.ovs.ny.gov) helps individuals and/or their family members who have been victimized through no fault of their own and have no other means of assistance. It is a payer of last resort: all other sources of assistance, such as medical insurance and workers' compensation, must be exhausted before the agency can pay a victim or their family members for any out-of-pocket losses related to the crime.
The agency provided a total of $22 million to assist crime victims and their families in 2016, which represents claims paid for the first time last year or those from prior years. New York is the only state in the nation that has no cap on counseling or medical expenses, which means crime victims and family members can receive help as along as it is necessary. The Office of Victim Services also funds a network of 223 victim assistance programs that provide direct services to crime victims across New York State.
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