After Common Justice’s years-long advocacy, Governor Kathy Hochul signed new legislation that will end racial disparities in victim compensation.
New York, NY – Common Justice is celebrating the signing of The Fair Access to Victim Compensation Act (S.214A-Myrie/A.2105A-Meeks) into law, which will help increase access to State victim compensation funding for Black, Brown, immigrant, and LGBTQIA+ New Yorkers. Compensation funding is often used to help survivors and victims’ families recover from violence and trauma by assisting with the cost of medical bills, mental health services, lost wages, relocations, and burial expenses. Through the new law, crime survivors will no longer have to report their assault to law enforcement, which can cause additional trauma to those from communities with complicated relationships with the police.
“When we think about inequity and how deep it runs in a place like New York, it is imperative that we ensure people have access to the tools they need to recover and heal after violence,” said Danielle Sered, Executive Director of Common Justice. “Through this bill, New York is taking a stand to ensure that survivors and their families have those tools, while also ensuring they don’t suffer additional trauma by having to interact with law enforcement when doing so isn't right for them. This is a true win for New York, and I commend the bill’s sponsors, supporters, advocates, and Governor Hochul for doing the right thing by standing on the side of survivors.”
In 20xx, Common Justice, a New York-based nonprofit that builds transformative solutions to violence that can displace incarceration, launched a state-wide campaign that aims to make New York State’s victim compensation laws and policies more equitable by removing barriers victims and survivors face when attempting to collect these life-saving funds. Since then, the campaign has gained the support of over 43 organizations. The first piece of legislation in the campaign is the Fair Access to Victim Compensation Act.
“The Fair Access to Victim Compensation Act will remove the unjust barriers victims and survivors of crime face when trying to access meaningful resources and will expand access to the victim compensation funds survivors need to rebuild their lives after trauma. As the Assembly sponsor of this legislation, it has been a privilege to work alongside Senate sponsor Zellnor Myrie, Common Justice, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, advocates, and survivors to get this crucial piece of legislation across the finish line! Survivors no longer have to wait; New York State will compensate!” Assemblyman Demond Meeks.
“Families are rejoicing today because New York stepped up and did the right thing. It has been nearly 17 years since my son Andrell was killed, but a mother never forgets that pain or what it takes to begin to rebuild after losing a child,” said Oresa Napper Williams, CEO and Founder of Not Another Child, Inc. “With this new law, New York is helping to unravel a layer of trauma for families, allowing them to start the healing process sooner. There is still more work to be done, but I thank Governor Hochul, the bill’s sponsors, and all of the other advocates and supporters who helped make this law a reality.”
This legislation marks the end of a nearly two years-long battle for survivors to receive the compensation they rightfully deserve. One of the crucial interventions of this new legislation is that it expands the Office of Victim Services’ (OVS) accepted forms of evidence to prove a crime has occurred beyond an official police report. Furthermore, it provides more flexibility for survivors as it extends the application filing deadline from one year to three years, and the cutoff to report harm from one week to a reasonable amount of time considering the circumstances. These changes will enable marginalized victims and grieving families to seek compensation and secure resources for healing in a timeline that suits their needs, without needing to rely on law enforcement.
Additional quotes from coalition partners can be found here:
“As we celebrate the signing of the Fair Access to Victim Compensation Act, I am filled with immense pride and hope. Today's milestone is a significant victory not just for those directly impacted by crime, but for our entire state. This law symbolizes our collective empathy and support for victims and survivors, taking a substantial step towards justice, equity and healing by removing barriers to compensation. It sends a clear message to all New Yorkers: in your most challenging times, we are here to support you. My heartfelt gratitude goes to Governor Hochul, State Senator Myrie, Assemblymember Meeks, and the dedicated advocates who worked relentlessly to ensure fair access to the vital resources needed to rebuild lives,” said Council Member Mercedes Narcisse.
"I am very glad that Governor Hochul is signing the Fair Access to Victim Compensation Act at last," said Council Member Tiffany Cabán. "Forcing those who have good reasons to avoid interacting with police, including fear of retaliation for doing so, to go through police in order to obtain the means to heal is clearly cruel. This is especially true given that the cohort likeliest to become victims of violence -- low-income Black boys and men under 35 -- are the exact cohort likeliest to be victimized by the police themselves. Thank you to Common Justice and everyone who has worked to bring this cruelty to an end."
“Financial compensation in the aftermath of a crime gives victims of domestic violence and their families increased stability by covering costs such as hospital bills, mental health counseling, lock replacement, installation of security systems, or replacement of personal property. Removing mandatory law enforcement reporting, expanding acceptable forms of documentation victims can provide to support a victim compensation application, and lengthening the timeframes victims can report a crime and file an application significantly reduce current barriers to critical victim compensation funds. Fair Access to Victim Compensation aligns state statute with the principles of trauma-informed, victim-centered care. NYSCADV thanks Governor Hochul, Senator Myrie and Assembly Member Meeks for their leadership in making New York’s victim compensation program more equitable and accessible to all victims of crime,” said Joan Gerhardt, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy at the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
“All survivors of gun violence deserve equal access to the resources that can help bring a much-needed balm to themselves and their communities. Not only have they been disproportionately inhibited from accessing resources like victim compensation, but law enforcement reporting requirements have forced them to choose between possible retaliation and seeking justice. This undue burden on survivors of color only serves to enable the cycles of victimization and violence in New York’s communities. This legislation will help dismantle the systemic barriers to healing and ensure that all survivors – particularly those of color – will have increased access to the resources that will help free them from gun violence,” said Kris Brown, President of Brady: United Against Gun Violence
"Safe Horizon thanks Assembly Member Demond Meeks and State Senator Zellnor Myrie for shepherding the Fair Access to Victim Compensation bill through the legislature, and Governor Kathy Hochul for signing this important legislation into law. Safe Horizon responds to survivors of violence and abuse who report to the police, and those who choose other paths to safety. Both cohorts of survivors are equally deserving of compensation for expenses incurred as the result of a crime. And now, thanks to this new law, the path to reimbursement from the NYS Office of Victim Services will be broader,” said Liz Roberts, CEO of Safe Horizon.
“If we're committed to tackling gun violence as a public health crisis, we have to ensure that survivors have equitable access to resources and compensation to help them live and thrive. Helping those with trauma to heal, especially those most often left behind by our current system, is not only a form of justice–it also helps disrupt the continued cycle of powerlessness and violence. We need comprehensive solutions to address gun violence from all angles, and we applaud the NYS Legislature and the Governor for enacting the Fair Access to Victim Compensation Act, an essential solution to the path to saving lives,” said Rebecca Fisher, executive director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
“The enduring trauma of gun violence—financially, emotionally, and mentally—is devastating for victims, survivors and their families who are rebuilding their lives,” said Angela Ferrell-Zabala, Executive Director of Moms Demand Action. “This historic bill demonstrates a crucial understanding of both the need to financially compensate survivors, and the systemic barriers to survivors actually receiving that support. I’m thankful that Governor Hochul is expanding access to these critical resources, allowing communities to prioritize healing by alleviating the financial burden caused by tragedy.”
More background on the FAVC legislation can be found here.