Crime victim fund eligibility expands

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — The family of a student killed or injured while boarding or exiting a school bus can now qualify to receive money from the state Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

House Bill 710 expands the eligibility for the fund. It has been signed by Gov. Phil Bryant and takes effect July 1.

The Crime Victim Compensation Fund provides financial assistance up to $20,000 to victims of violent crime and their eligible family members. The goal of the program is to reduce the financial burden of crime by repaying out-of-pocket, crime-related expenses not covered by any other source of benefits like insurance, Medicaid, Medicare, disability benefits or Workers’ Compensation.

Another change allows payment to a person convicted of a felony who has been rehabilitated, as evidenced by having been out from under the supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for the five years prior to the date of the incident on which the claim is based.

The Clarion-Ledger reports that Attorney General Jim Hood requested the changes. Hood’s office oversees the fund.

“We’re now saying a person with a felony could qualify for the fund after five years,” said state Rep. Kimberly Buck, D-Jackson, who along with her husband state Rep. Kevin Buck, D-Holly Springs, sponsored the bill.

“We believe in redemption; we don’t believe a person should be barred for life from the program,” Kimberley Buck said.

Under the compensation law, payments are limited to victims of crimes that occurred after July 1, 1991.

The bill also says no money will be dispensed from the fund unless the claim was filed within 36 months after the crime occurred. In cases of child sexual abuse the deadline is within 36 months after the crime was reported to law enforcement or the Department of Human Services but no later than the victim’s 25th birthday.

The director of the compensation fund can extend the time to file a claim by one year for good cause.