State Crime Victim Compensation Aid Suffers In Recession


State programs designed to help crime victims rebuild their lives are running out of money as claims increase, medical expenses rise, and legislators deal with the recession, the Associated Press reports. Several states’ programs face deficits or have cut benefits. “Given the awful situation they’re in now, states are looking at moving that money away into other parts,” said Steve Derene of the National Association of Victims of Crime Act Assistance Administrators. “It’s dire for everybody on all fronts.”

Each state offers crime victims and survivors money to cover damages that include lost wages, counseling, dental and medical bills, and funerals. Maximum payouts range around $25,000. The programs provide about $450 million each year to about 200,000 victims. Some states rely on appropriations of tax dollars or criminal penalty assessments to pay for compensation. Others make offenders pay surcharges and fees. The federal government matches state expenditures with grants that typically lag two or three years behind expenditures. More people are turning to the programs as they lose their jobs and benefits. Claims approved nationwide grew 31 percent over the last decade, from 117,486 in 1998 to 172,378 in 2007. Over that same period, medical reimbursements rose 42 percent, from $131.4 million in 1998 to $228.8 million in 2007. “The money just doesn’t go as far as it used to. If you got punched in the face and you went into the emergency room for medical services, they used to give you an X-ray. Now they’ll give you a cat scan or two or three,” said Kathy Matson, crime victim compensation program officer in Montana.

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