Monday, April 12, 2004

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Attorney General Abbott Joins With Advocates To Protect Crime Victims Compensation Fund

AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today issued an urgent call to protect the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, warning that continued spending at current levels could render the fund insolvent by 2007. Abbott was joined by leading crime victims advocates in calling for safeguarding the Fund.

“Victims of assault, sexual abuse, aggravated robbery and other crimes need to know the Crime Victims Compensation Fund will be there in their hour of need,” Attorney General Abbott said. “But unless something is done, that will no longer be possible. I am eager to work with the Legislature to continue the Fund’s great legacy of helping crime victims put their lives back together.”

Mark Huber, a Cedar Park man, received assistance from the Fund to help pay costs related to life-threatening injuries his daughter, Jessica, sustained in a 2002 car accident that resulted from criminal activity. Huber received roughly $9,000 to cover out-of-pocket medical expenses and lost wages. Huber said: “Without the Fund’s help, I don’t know what I would have done.”

The Office of the Attorney General, which administers the Fund, last year paid out a record $71 million to almost 16,000 crime victims. The Fund, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, was created by the Legislature to help crime victims shoulder the burden of expenses they bear because of their injuries. Covered costs include out-of-pocket medical, psychiatric and funeral expenses, as well as lost wages, money spent on child care, and crime scene clean-up. The Fund uses no taxpayer dollars; rather, most of the Fund’s money comes from fees, court costs and restitution paid by those convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in a state court.

Because of the increased need for victims assistance and a recent down economy, the Fund was used as a source of revenue to replace losses in other agency programs, many not directly related to crime victims. In the 2004-2005 biennium, $114 million was used to fund other agency programs. Current projections indicate the Fund will not have enough money to meet current spending levels by the 2006-2007 biennium. In January, Attorney General Abbott joined with an array of leading crime victims advocates to form the Crime Victims Advisory Council, which is seeking ways to save the Fund.