Since the fall of 2021, Common Justice has led the Fair Access to Victim Compensation coalition, advocating for changes to the way victim compensation funding is administered in New York State.
In January of 2022, we introduced the first bill of the Fair Access to Victim Compensation campaign, A.8619A (Meeks)/S.7573 (Myrie), which would expand eligibility for victims and survivors of crime to access federally-allocated Victim of Crimes Act (VOCA) funding.
Last month, the Fair Access to Victim Compensation (FAVC) campaign took a huge step forward, as the New York City Council passed a resolution in support of our bill, calling on the New York State legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, this critical piece of legislation. But what exactly does that mean for the campaign, and how will this resolution affect Common Justice and the rest of the FAVC coalition’s work to make New York’s victim compensation laws and policies more equitable and just for all New Yorkers?
What is a City Council Resolution and what does it do?
In New York City, a City Council Resolution is used to comment on matters at the state or federal levels that affect New Yorkers. Often, it can represent the collective voice of the residents of New York City, and can have an influence on the creation of laws and policies at the state-level, whether they apply to New York City or New York State, as a whole. Though New York City Council Resolutions can sometimes be used to implement new city-level legislation or policy, resolutions like Reso. 0025, in support of Fair Access to Victim Compensation, call on the State Legislature to pass a bill that’s been proposed to them. In our case, that’s Fair Access to Victim Compensation, or A.8619A (Meeks)/S.7573 (Myrie).
Essentially, Resolution 0025 tells the New York State Legislature that the residents of New York City, through their elected City Council Members, support this bill and believe that the state should enact the new policies the legislation proposes, into law. While this does not require the State Legislature to pass Fair Access to Victim Compensation, the New York City Council is one of the most powerful local bodies of government in New York State, and the passage of Resolution 0025 puts significant pressure on legislators to address the barriers survivors and victims of crime face when trying to access these life-saving funds.
Where does the FAVC coalition go from here?
Though the passage of Resolution 0025 doesn’t actually move A.8619A (Meeks)/S.7573 (Myrie) through the state legislature, it is still a victory for the FAVC coalition, and represents the support of New York City and the New York City Council. However, our work is far from done.
Since the end of last year, the FAVC Coalition has been building power and support for Fair Access to Victim Compensation across New York State. Our coalition consists of over 35 organizations, including national and New York-based victim services providers, gun violence prevention advocates, violence interrupters, criminal justice advocates, and other organizations that advocate for survivors and victims of crime, as well as New York’s Black and Brown communities. In the last 6 months, coalition members have met with numerous state legislators (our bill currently has 14 sponsors in the Senate and 25 in the Assembly!), hosted a webinar on the ways survivors of violence from marginalized communities have been systematically excluded from receiving victim compensation funds, coordinated a successful week of digital action, and advocated our way to the passage of Resolution 0025. While the passage of the resolution doesn’t change the laws or processes for survivors that need it most, it does signify the need for change and brings this issue to the forefront for the first time in New York State. It’s critical to remember that Fair Access to Victim Compensation isn’t just a legislative campaign, but also a public education and awareness campaign, to let survivors be heard and to give them autonomy over the healing they need and the ways they can access that healing.
In short, the next step for the FAVC coalition is to continue to advocate for fair and equitable access to victim compensation using the strategies that have been successful thus far. To that end, the Fair Access to Victim Compensation has partnered with the New York Coalition for Sexual Assault, the People’s Campaign for Parole Justice, and RAPP to host an upcoming Parole Justice & Survivor Justice Advocacy Day on April 25th. We’ll be heading up to Albany to advocate for equitable access to healing funds, in addition to Fair & Timely Parole (S.7514/A.4231A) and Elder Parole (S.15A/A.8855). Together, these bills promote pathways to redemption and healing for incarcerated people and their families, create equitable access to life-saving funds for victims and survivors, and provide a framework for what real healing and safety can look like in New York State. Sign up to join us in Albany here.
In addition to this advocacy day, we will be issuing an extensive report on victim compensation in New York—who receives compensation and the barriers survivors face while attempting to access it. We’ll also continue to meet with state legislators to ask for their support on the issue, conduct street outreach to educate our communities on the bill (and about victim compensation, generally), and advocate on behalf of survivors and other directly impacted folks.
What can you do to get involved in the Fair Access to Victim Compensation Campaign?
If you’re passionate about creating equitable and just access to victim compensation funding for all survivors in New York State, the FAVC coalition would love to hear from you! You can get involved with the campaign by signing up to become a volunteer, joining us on our next lobby day in Albany (Monday, April 25th), or by staying tuned for updates from the Common Justice email list!
To take action today, call and email your state legislators and let them know that you support Fair Access to Victim Compensation [A.8619A (Meeks)/S.7573 (Myrie)]!