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New state law helps survivors of crime victims

File Photo
Associated Press

New York State is making it easier for the families of murder victims to cover the burial costs for their loved ones.

Recent changes in the law that went into effect this week have increased the amount of emergency funeral and burial funds that are available to the survivors of people whose deaths were due to a crime.

"For many families who are going through this trauma, they don't have the funds to start the process, and some funeral homes will not begin to start the funeral process without having money up front," said Elizabeth Cronin, director of the Office of Victim Services.

OVS refers to the upfront costs as emergency grants. Previously, families could receive up to $2,500 in emergency grants.  On June 26, that increased to $3,000.  The total reimbursement for funerals and burials remains at $6,000.  The grants can be paid either directly to a funeral home or to survivors.

Even in cases where the deceased played a role in the crime that led to their death, their survivors may be reimbursed for up to 50 percent of their funeral and burial costs.

"We realize that so many of these families are not the guilty party and therefore, should not have to be responsible for the entire payment," said Cronin, "so we are limiting our contributory conduct analysis to 50 percent."

In 2018, OVS paid $2 million for 475 death claims. The money comes from fines, surcharges and fees paid by people convicted of crimes and traffic violations.

Applications for the grants can be made online, but Cronin recommends that people use the website to find their local OVS office so they can work with someone directly to walk them through the process. Applicants do not have to demonstrate financial need or income eligibility to receive the grants.