March 2, 2016
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Over $1.5 Million in Federal Grants to Crime Victims' Assistance Programs for Technology Upgrades

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Over $1.5 Million in...

New equipment will allow providers to improve services and expedite filing of compensation claims with the state

WYSIWYG

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that more than 100 service providers that assist crime victims from across New York State will receive an additional $1.5 million in federal grants to modernize their offices so they can better serve victims and their families. The funding allows for the purchase of equipment and technology used for filing claims through the state's Victim Service Portal, an online system that allows crime victims to more quickly obtain compensation for medical bills, lost wages and other forms of assistance.

"This funding will help ensure crime victims and their families receive the resources they are entitled to during their time of need,” Governor Cuomo said. “By providing these additional tools for these worthy organizations, we are helping to create a stronger, safer New York.”

The Office of Victim Services administers more than $43.8 million in funding to 175 non-profit organizations, hospitals and law enforcement agencies that support 225 programs serving crime victims in every county in the state. Any Office of Victim Services-funded program was eligible to apply for the technology grants. All programs that submitted applications by the request for assistance deadline received funding.

Victim assistance programs will use the money to purchase equipment, such as scanners, computers and printers, and software to facilitate the application process through the Victim Service Portal. Programs also will be able to purchase mobile devices or tablets that will allow their staff to file claims whenever – and wherever – they meet with victims.

Click here to view the providers receiving grant funding. Providers receiving more than one grant operate multiple programs that serve crime victims.

Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, "This funding will help untether the advocates from their offices, so they can reach victims directly wherever they are, rather than have the victim travel to an office miles away from where they live. Very often, that can mean the difference between a traumatized crime victim seeking the assistance or deciding to go it alone."

The Office of Victim Services began accepting claims electronically through the Victim Service Portal in April 2015. As providers began to use the Portal, staff recognized that many organizations needed more equipment and enhanced technology to take full advantage of the new system. An increase in funding available under the federal Victims of Crime Act allowed the agency to offer grants for the upgrades.

Prior to the Portal's activation, crime victims or their advocates filed paper claims for compensation – such as payment for medical bills, moving or burial expenses, or lost wages – and mailed them to the agency for review, a process that had averaged about 95 days. The online system, combined with other processing improvements, has reduced the average processing time by nearly two weeks, with some claims taking fewer than 15 days to approve.

In the 10 months since the Portal went live, this Office has processed about 8,100 online claims, nearly half of the approximately 16,300 claims submitted. The agency anticipates that number of online claims will increase as a result of this new investment in technology upgrades.

Congressman Charles B. Rangel said, "I applaud Governor Cuomo for providing increased funding and technological improvements to help victims in the aftermath of a crime. As a former prosecutor, I know that many crime victims are hesitant to come forward out of fear that they will not have proper assistance. The federal money coming into communities across the state, including our own in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, will help our neighbors seek the justice they deserve."

Congressman Eliot Engel said, "For those who have fallen victim to a crime, the experience can be harrowing and very traumatic. State services that provide help and support to crime victims are invaluable, but have often lacked adequate funding. These federal funds Governor Cuomo has allocated to purchase equipment and technology to modernize victim services will ensure the Office of Victims Services can provide the assistance victims need. I applaud the Governor for his commitment to this important issue."

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey said, “Victims of crimes should not have to wait months on end to resolve claims that are the difference in making rent, paying the bills, or putting food on the table. By harnessing the innovations of the 21st Century, we can make it easier to file and process claims, and give New Yorkers greater peace of mind. I’m pleased these federal investments will help local organizations in Westchester and Rockland upgrade their services to compensate crime victims. As Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I will continue working to improve services for hardworking families in the Lower Hudson Valley.”

Congressman José E. Serrano said, "These important federal grants will help victims' assistance programs better serve crime victims and process their claims faster by providing financial resources for the purchase of much needed new technology. By streamlining the process, it will also help the agency save money in the medium and long term. I am particularly glad to know that several organizations in the Bronx will benefit from this initiative and look forward to the positive impact these grants will have in our community.”

Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said, “Providing services for crime victims and their families is of the upmost importance. I am thrilled that $1.5 million will be provided to programs across the state and in the district I represent to ensure that New Yorkers are given the attention and care they deserve. The new Victims Service Portal has been a great asset, and thanks to Governor Cuomo, now the Office of Victims Services staff will be better equipped to take full advantage of all available resources.”

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks said, “As a society, it is our responsibility to aid victims of crimes, to rally around them, and to do what we can to make them a little more whole again. I applaud the announcement of these additional grants to the Crime Victims’ Assistance Programs—around the state and specifically, to the Jamaica Service Program for Older Adults in my district—that will improve New York’s ability to fulfill that responsibility. I thank Governor Cuomo, the 175 non-profit organizations, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies and I look forward to working with them in a concerted effort to reduce crime and support victims of it.”

Congressman Joe Crowley said, “Putting your life back together after being a victim of a crime can often be a harrowing experience. That’s why the support that our victim assistance programs provide is invaluable. The tech upgrades that these federal dollars will go toward, will without a doubt help these providers more effectively assist the victims and their families. I thank Governor Cuomo for his role in ensuring the resources are there for these programs to improve their services and better meet the needs of their clients.”

Congressman Steve Israel said, “New Yorkers who have been victims of crimes must have access to resources in their time of need. This additional federal funding will support critical victim services providers in Queens, Nassau and Suffolk Counties and directly help victims recovering from traumatic experiences.”

Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Being the victim of a crime can happen to anyone at any time. Pleased to see this federal funding, including $64,665 to Erie & Niagara counties, will go towards technology and equipment to help crime victims recover emotionally and financially as soon as possible."

Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke said, “Assuring that victims of crime have unencumbered access to resources is vitally important. Through the recent allocation of a $1.5 million in federal grants, the State Office of Victim Services has increased the number of resources available to providers to meet the needs of their clients in a considerate, caring and timely fashion. Additionally, community based organizations that also provide critical assistance during this time of great need, will be better equipped to serve those most vulnerable in Brooklyn and throughout the rest of New York City. On behalf of my district and those victimized and unable to provide for themselves and for their families, I applaud the efforts of Governor Cuomo to promote the furtherance of justice.”

Congressman Paul Tonko said, “The faster survivors of violent crime can return to their normal lives, the better, and the Office of Victim Services provides tremendous assistance to those who simply want to move on. I appreciate Governor Cuomo’s attention to this matter as well as his recognition of the great need we have here in the Capital Region. I look forward to working further with him to ensure this funding is used appropriately as well as providing our law enforcement with the tools they need to operate so that this program is needed less and less in the years to come.”

Congressman Richard Hanna said, “I am pleased to see these funds being used to update technology systems to better serve crime victims. We must ensure systems are in place to fully examine and expedite claims to ensure that victims and their families don’t have to be subject to a terrible crime and then struggle with delays to process payments for medical bills or lost wages. Making improvements to the technology will benefit the service providers and the crime victims so they can put this matter behind them as quickly as possible and move on with their lives.”

Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said, “Hudson Valley victim services organizations are on the front lines assisting victims and their families every day and this federal investment will ensure they have the support and technology necessary to better serve our communities. It’s unacceptable that many victims have to wait weeks to receive medical compensation, lost wages or other assistance as a result of crime. Working together with Governor Cuomo, state and local organizations, this critical funding will reduce wait times and ensure innocent victims and their families receive the support they deserve.”

Congresswoman Kathleen Rice said, “I’m pleased that service providers on Long Island will have the opportunity to use this federal funding to continue improving services for victims in our communities. The last thing the victim of any crime should have to worry about is a long wait period or an overly-complicated bureaucratic process just to receive the support they need and the compensation they deserve. This funding will help bring New York’s victims’ service providers into the 21st century so that the people who rely on these services are compensated quickly and efficiently as they work to recover and move on with their lives.”

Congressman Lee Zeldin said, “With this federal funding, Long Island groups will receive resources they need to help modernize their offices’ technology to best serve crime victims. The safety of Long Islanders should always be a top priority and we must continue to fight to ensure the victims in our community have the assistance they need during times of need.”

Congressman Dan Donovan said, "As District Attorney for 12 years, and now as a member of Congress, my philosophy has always been that government should do all it can to protect, comfort and compensate victims of crime. It’s that philosophy that led me to secure a Family Justice Center for Staten Island, and continues to guide my work in Congress.”

About the Office of Victim Services

The Office of Victim Services provides a safety net for 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. For the 2014-15 fiscal year, OVS provided $23.9 million in compensation to assist crime victims and their families.

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. Those fines and fees also fund nearly all of the more than $43.8 million currently provided victim assistance programs across the state.

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