The General Assembly today passed legislation to change the Crime Victim Compensation Fund to provide for victims of terrorism outside Rhode Island but within the U.S. and to increase its limit for funeral compensation and relocation reimbursements. All of the bills received final passage by the General Assembly today and are now headed to the governor’s desk.
The first measure (2016-S 2762Aaa, 2016-H 7538Aaa), sponsored by President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed and Rep. David A. Coughlin Jr on behalf of General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, allows residents of Rhode Island who are victims of terrorist acts outside Rhode Island but within the United States eligible to receive victim compensation payments. The need for the legislation was made apparent by the case of Newport resident Heather Abbott, who lost her leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Initially denied compensation because it happened out of state, she was subsequently awarded compensation on appeal.
“Rhode Islanders who are victims of terrorism outside of the United States are eligible for compensation through the fund. This legislation ensures the language of the law is consistent with the intent. It makes it absolutely clear that Rhode Islanders who are victims of terrorism outside of the state but within the United States would be eligible for compensation,” said President of the Senate M. Teresa Paiva Weed (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown). “I am grateful to Treasurer Magaziner for his leadership on this bill.”
Said Representative Coughlin (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), “Domestic terrorism is now an ever-present danger to our citizens and their livelihoods and this new law will offer a modicum of relief should the worst happen to one of our Rhode Island residents. The purpose of terrorism is to destroy lives, physically and psychologically. My hope is that this new law will afford unfortunate Rhode Island victims of these heinous acts the help they need to overcome the terror and piece back together their disrupted lives.”
The second measure (2016-H 7533A, 2016-S 2750A), sponsored by Christopher R. Blazejewski and Sen. Hanna M. Gallo, also on behalf of Treasurer Magaziner, would increase the maximum payment from the fund for burial expenses from $8,000 to $10,000, and would increase the maximum emergency relocation cost award from $2,500 to $5,000.
“Victims of domestic violence and their families must often relocate for their own safety, and these additional funds will go a long way toward providing further assistance and peace of mind. In the tragic cases where a death occurs due to violent crime, increasing the burial expense compensation is most appropriate and simply the right thing to do,” said Representative Blazejewski (D-Dist.2, Providence).
Said Senator Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick), “Now that we’ve been taking a closer look at the victim’s compensation fund, it’s important to make sure that the money allocated to victims is a fair amount. Eight thousand dollars just isn’t enough for funeral expenses anymore. Also, it’s a sad reality that relocation is often the only option for victims of domestic violence. This adjustment in compensation will go a long way in helping those families out.”