Lansing, Mich. ( Associated Press) — Eligibility for a Michigan fund that reimburses crime victims and their survivors for health care costs and funeral expenses will be expanded under a bill passed Wednesday by the Legislature.
Michigan has one of the lowest application rates nationally for access to victim compensation funds and nearly a third of applications were denied in the state in 2018, according to data from the Alliance for Safety and Justice, a nonprofit organization which works to support crime victims and reduce incarceration.
Current law allows entitlement of funds for victims, a person who was harmed by intervening on behalf of the victim and certain family members or representatives associated with the victim.
The new law refines the language of who can apply and will allow reimbursement for victims’ primary caregivers. Guardians or primary caregivers who have been victims of crime will also be eligible. Others would include roommates and people the victim was often dating.
Current law requires claimants to file for reimbursement within one year of the offense. The claimant is not eligible if the offense is not reported to law enforcement within 48 hours. Critics of sanctions argue that the financial implications of conducting a funeral for a loved one, seeking psychological support, and compensating for time lost from work after suffering are not always at the fore of people’s minds during treatment.
Under the law, passed with bipartisan support on Wednesday, the 48-hour rule would be removed and victims would have five years to file. The bill now goes to Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Victims of criminal sexual conduct under the age of 18 must file a claim by their 19th birthday to be eligible for reimbursement under the current law. If a claimant has reason to delay, the law would raise the age to 28.
The limit for the total amount each claimant will receive will be increased from $25,000 to $45,000, and applications for reimbursement of funeral expenses will be increased from $5,000 to $8,000.
Representative Bronna Kahle, the bill’s sponsor, said in a news release that the law will bring support to those in the state who need it most.
“Michigan crime survivors stood as one and demanded change. Today’s victory has been made possible because of their courage and perseverance,” said Adrian the Republican. “With these reforms, we are proving to the nation that Michigan can adopt proven solutions to stop the cycle of oppression.”