Governor announces expanded assistance for victims of domestic violence, hate crimes

Posted 19 February 2019 at 10:27 am

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced legislation expanding assistance available for victims of hate crimes and certain other crimes often associated with domestic violence who were not physically injured during the crime is now effective.

Signed by Governor Cuomo last summer and effective on Monday, the new law allows these individuals to apply for reimbursement of shelter costs and crime scene cleanup expenses from the New York State Office of Victim Services.

“By providing greater protections for innocent victims of crime, we are ensuring individuals who have endured the pain and suffering of these horrific events receive the support they need to recover,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York is proud to be one of the first states to provide compensation to crime victims, and the expansion of this law reaffirms the State’s commitment to helping these individuals and their family members whose top priority should be healing, not navigating the financial burden of an act of crime against them.”

Previously, victims who were not physically injured during the crime were only eligible for certain OVS benefits if the charges included criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation; certain menacing, harassment, aggravated harassment, criminal contempt and stalking offenses; and hate crimes.

These individuals were eligible to seek compensation from the agency for a variety of crime-related expenses, such as bills related to counseling and moving expenses, but crime scene cleanup and shelter costs were not included. These expenses are now covered for such claims filed with OVS. Non-physically injured victims of certain menacing, criminal mischief and robbery offenses are included as those eligible to receive reimbursement for loss of earnings and counseling expenses.

This legislation is the latest in a series of changes to state law and increased financial investment under Governor Cuomo’s leadership designed to expand eligibility and improve access to assistance and services for crime victims.

Other significant changes include the nearly $16 million in federal funding administered by the Office of Victim Services to expand access to civil legal assistance for victims of crime; $8.4 million in state and federal funding to improve and expand services for vulnerable adults at risk of abuse, neglect or financial exploitation; and $4.5 million to expand child advocacy centers and fund mobile centers to ensure child abuse victims have access to these services closer to home.

In addition, vulnerable elderly or disabled individuals incapable of caring for themselves who have lost up to $30,000 in savings because of a crime are eligible to seek OVS assistance. The change recognizes that many vulnerable elderly or disabled individuals fall victim to financial exploitation, as well as abuse, often by someone they know. Previously, the agency could only reimburse victims to this extent for loss of support or earnings. The age requirement established for vulnerable elderly under state law is at least 60 years old.

All of these legislative changes come at no cost to taxpayers. Funding for crime victims’ compensation and reimbursement, as well as the Office of Victim Services’ 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.

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