By Sasha Gonzales
In a move expected to help grieving Bronx families, New York State will begin paying up to $3,000 to help bury people who die at the hands of criminals, officials said Wednesday.
Grantees may now be eligible for up to $6,000 total from the state’s Office of Victim Services for expenses including funeral services, burial plot, the deceased’s burial clothes, clergy fees, transportation costs for the deceased, obituaries, and church fees for religious services and flowers, according to the state.
Under the prior law and controlling regulations, an award granted a crime victim’s family could be reduced, or denied entirely, if the victim’s conduct contributed to his or her death.
The maximum emergency award for burial expenses from OVS totaled $2,500 under that law.
Now, the new emergency amount for burials is increasing to $3,000–or half of the $6,000 state award cap.
“The loss of a loved one due to a crime is a devastating reality for many people, but the amendments to this law will relieve some of the financial burden to those left behind,” OVS Director Elizabeth Cronin said of the new law and state regulations, which took effect Wednesday.
The change eliminates the need for OVS to recoup money based on a later determination that the victim contributed to the crime resulting in his or her death, state officials said.
This legislation is the latest in a series of changes to state law designed to help crime victims, the officials said.
Other reforms include: nearly $16 million in federal funding administered by OVS to expand access to civil legal assistance for victims of crime; $8.4 million in state and federal funding to expand services for vulnerable adults at risk of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation; and $4.5 million to help child abuse victims gain access to services closer to home, officials said.
The legislative changes, according to the state, come at no cost to taxpayers.
Funding for crime victims’ compensation and reimbursement, as well as the OVS’ day-to-day operations, comes from fines, mandatory surcharges, and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following criminal convictions in New York State or federal courts.
For more information about services offered by OV, including eligibility guidelines, visit ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.