Division of Criminal Justice Services

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Contact: Janine Kava, Press Office
New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services
(518) 457-8906 or (518) 275-5508 – cell

For immediate release: Thursday, Aug. 9, 2007

New state law increases emergency awards for crime victims

Crime victims and their families in New York State are now eligible for up to $2,500 in emergency assistance, which can be used to cover a variety of costs incurred in the wake of a crime, including medical expenses, lost earnings or funeral expenses.

Granted by the state’s Crime Victims Board, emergency awards had been capped at $1,500 and had to be disbursed in increments that couldn’t exceed $500 at any one time. In July, the state enacted a law that increased the emergency award limit and provided for a single award of no more than $2,500.

“This new law goes a long way toward helping us ensure that crime victims across New York State get the assistance and services they need, not just in the long-term, but in the immediate aftermath of a crime,” said Tina M. Stanford, chairwoman of the Crime Victims Board. “In some instances, people are living paycheck to paycheck. When they are suddenly hit with additional expenses or are unable to work because they have been victimized, obtaining emergency assistance can be crucial to their well-being.”

The Crime Victims Board was established in 1966 to provide compensation to innocent victims of crimes.

The Crime Victims Board provides individuals with emergency assistance if they are deemed potentially eligible for compensation benefits but they would suffer undue hardship if they didn’t receive immediate payment. For example, an emergency award can facilitate a homicide victim’s family’s ability to begin making funeral arrangements, and some medications, including HIV post-exposure treatment for rape or sexual assault victims, are expensive and the treatment is time sensitive.

Crime victims are eligible to file a claim – emergency or otherwise – with the board if they meet one of the board’s requirements. The crime for which the victim is filing a claim also must have been reported to a criminal justice agency and the victim must have cooperated in the investigation and/or prosecution of the case. Reimbursement, however, is not dependent upon conviction.

For more information about eligibility, visit www.ovs.ny.gov and click on “A Guide to Crime Victims Compensation in New York State.”

In 2005-06, the Crime Victims Board granted 433 emergency awards totaling $286,327. All told, the board disbursed more than $26 million to help crime victims in New York State in 2005-06.

The amount of each award varies and awards compensate victims for a range of expenses or losses, including counseling expenses, lost earnings and the cost of moving to ensure victims’ safety.

Funding for compensation to crime victims comes from a combination of state and federal monies. The state portion comes from the Criminal Justice Improvement Account, which is funded by mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees assessed on certain offenders.

The Crime Victims Board also funds victim assistance programs in 56 counties across New York State. For a list of those programs, visit www.ovs.ny.gov and click on “Victim Assistance” in the menu on the left.

The board’s mission is to “provide compensation to innocent victims of crime in a timely, efficient and compassionate manner; to fund direct services to crime victims via a network of community-based programs; and to advocate for the rights and benefits of all innocent victims of crime.”

The Crime Victims Board is governed by five board members, all of whom are appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the state Senate. Board members are appointed for seven-year terms.

Ms. Stanford was unanimously confirmed as chairwoman by the Senate in June. Prior to assuming the chairwoman’s post, Ms. Stanford served as an assistant district attorney in Erie County since 1993. She had worked in the appeals unit, as well as the city court, grand jury, domestic violence/sexual assault and felony trial bureaus.