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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Magaziner wants to help crime victims rebuild their lives

Changes would extend benefits to victims of domestic terrorism, domestic violence

PROVIDENCE -- Legislation introduced by General Treasurer Seth Magaziner to enhance compensation for victims of violence received hearings today in the House of Representatives.

"These changes will enhance our ability to assist Rhode Islanders in times of great need. I thank the sponsors of these bills and the House of Representatives for considering this important legislation," Treasurer Magaziner said.

Treasury's Crime Victim Compensation Program (CVCP) assists Rhode Islanders who are victims of violent crimes by reimbursing them and their families for certain expenses incurred as a result of the violent act. Last year alone, the program assisted more than 600 Rhode Islanders with over $1.3 million of reimbursements.

House Bill 7538 -- the first of two related Crime Victim Compensation Program bills discussed today in the House Judiciary Committee -- clears up conflicting language in the law to allow victims of domestic terrorism that occurs outside of Rhode Island, but within the United States, to be eligible for compensation.

"I am proud to put this common-sense legislation in at the request of Treasurer Magaziner to assist victims of acts of terrorism," said Representative David A. Coughlin, Jr (D-Pawtucket), the bill's lead House sponsor. "I was made aware of the unfortunate case of Heather Abbott of Newport, who lost part of her leg in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013, and was initially denied compensation before winning an award upon appeal. This legislation will clear up any ambiguities in the law so that future victims will be immediately assisted."

The second piece of legislation, House Bill 7533, enhances compensation for victims of domestic violence by raising the cap on relocation expenses from $2,500 to $5,000, and increasing compensation for burial expenses from $8,000 to $10,000.

"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," said Representative Chris Blazejewski (D-Providence), the bill's lead House sponsor. "In the tragic cases where a death occurs due to domestic violence, increasing the burial expense compensation is most appropriate and simply the right thing to do."

The Crime Victim Compensation Program's existing funds are adequate to cover both legislative changes with no additional budget allocation required, the Treasurer's Office said.