New law helps grandchildren of homicide victims

Aug 14, 2015

Acting on a bill sponsored by two state lawmakers from Western New York, Governor Cuomo has signed a new law that will allow the grandchildren of murder victims to be reimbursed for counseling.

Until now, grandchildren were left out while other family members, including siblings and stepchildren, were included.

Elizabeth Cronin, director of the state Office of Victim Services.
Credit New York State Office of Victim Services

Elizabeth Cronin, Director of the state Office of Victim Services, told WBFO it’s important to recognize extended relationships.

“Almost all other family members were included, but it also recognizes the dynamic of family relationships and that relationships have evolved,” Cronin said.  “There’s an understanding that some grandchildren are being raised by their grandparents and so they have a parental relationship with them.”

Last year, the OVS provided more than $20 million in compensation to crime victims and their families.  Cronin explained where the funds came from.

“It’s a way of having the offenders give back essentially,” Cronin said.  “Our compensation comes from fines, fees and surcharges that offenders pay, both on the federal side and the state side.”

The bill was sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes before being signed into law by Gov. Cuomo on Thursday.

The new amendment is not retroactive and will only effect files claimed after the law was enacted.

“This new law extends compassion and care for those left in the wake of horrific and tragic circumstances,” Cuomo said in a written statement.  “I thank the sponsors of this bill for their hard work in ensuring that more New Yorkers will have the opportunity to get help during a difficult and painful time in their lives.”

Cronin said she believes the new law corrects an oversight.

“It was recognized that this cohort of people, grandchildren, had been left out of the law,” Cronin said.  “So this statute was amended so that we could be able to provide financial compensation to those grandchildren, both minors and adults who have lost a grandparent due to homicide.”

Grandchildren of victims can apply for the compensation through victim assistant programs located throughout the state, or through the OVS website at https://ovs.ny.gov/victim-compensation .