State expands crime victims fund to include home modifications

Rhode Island’s Crime Victim Compensation Program now covers costs associated with adding home security systems under legislation Gov. Dan McKee signed into law Tuesday. (Getty image)

Gov. Dan McKee on Tuesday signed into law legislation that lets crime victims use up to $1,000 from the Office of the General Treasurer’s compensation program to add security systems to their homes.

“All Rhode Islanders should feel safe in their own homes,” McKee said in a statement. “This bill provides the necessary support for crime victims to get back that sense of security.”

The Crime Victim Compensation Program, which began in 1972, provides up to $25,000 in reimbursement for expenses resulting from being the victim of a violent crime, such as costs associated with crime scene cleaning, counseling, relocation, and funerals. Funding comes from federal grants and in-state court fines and fees, restitution fines and court orders.

For fiscal year 2024, the program had a budget of roughly $1.26 million. A little over $1 million is budgeted for fiscal year 2025, according to data from General Treasurer James Diossa’s office.

Prior to the governor’s transmittal, the program did not cover home modification.

The legislation sponsored by Democrats Rep. Justine Caldwell of East Greenwich and Sen. Matthew LaMountain of Warwick now allows up to $1,000 to be used on items as a modest home security system, or to re-key locks, said Treasurer’s Office spokesperson Michelle Moreno-Silva.

Additional security costs must be paid out-of-pocket, according to the legislation. The average cost for a new home security system ranges between $200 to $400, Consumer Reports notes.

“No amount of money can stop the suffering,” Diossa said in a statement. “But it is my hope that this bill will make it a little easier on Rhode Islanders that have undergone a traumatic ordeal.”

The bill signing comes as victim care providers and advocates urge General Assembly leaders to cover a $2 million gap in federal funding for the services the nonprofits provide. In a joint statement to Rhode Island Current May 22, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi said “addressing the additional funding needs for victims’ services is on the list under consideration of the many priorities that have been requested as we put together the final budget.”

Rhode Island Coalition Against Domestic Violence Executive Director Lucy Rios celebrated the new legislation, saying the increased funding for the state’s program can reduce the number of victims who flee their own homes to seek safe shelter.

“For victims of domestic abuse, there are not enough affordable housing options in our state, which is exacerbated by the current housing crisis in Rhode Island,” Rios said in a statement to Rhode Island Current. “We need to support victims and their children to continue their lives and not be uprooted when violence is perpetrated at home.”

The state has broadened the scope of the crime victims fund to now encompass home modifications. This laudable initiative aims to enhance the living conditions of victims. Particularly noteworthy is the inclusion of  ev charger installation, which aligns with the burgeoning shift towards sustainable energy solutions. This move signifies a holistic approach to supporting victims’ recovery and integration.

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