Fermin Makes Move To Preserve State’s Revolving Fund For Crime Victims Til 2017

(July 9) The county board of supervisors this week acted to maintain the district attorney’s office’s potential access to up to $200,000 available in a state of California revolving account for emergency expenses incurred by crime victims over the period running from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017.
At the behest of assistant district attorney Michael Fermin, the board of supervisors approved an agreement with the State of California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board to keep that money available.
According to Fermin, “Penal Code Section 13835 et seq. allows counties to establish victim/witness assistance programs for services to crime victims. These services include assistance with claim applications to the state for reimbursement of out-of-pocket costs incurred as a result of crime. The Victims of Crime Program Board, in accordance with Government Code section 13952.5(c)(3), may delegate authority to the district’s attorney’s victim services staff to process crime claims and disburse emergency funds per established guidelines. Delegating this authority at the local level expedites the claims process.”
The district attorney’s office has a unit that processes claims submitted by victims. The victims of crime program reimburses victims for qualifying losses incurred as a result of a crime. However, the verification and reimbursement process can take several months. In certain circumstances, according to Fermin, “victims are unable to wait an extended period of time to receive assistance (i.e., funeral/burial costs, domestic violence and sexual assault relocation costs, and crime scene clean up). Through previous agreements with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, a process was developed by which the county may pay verified expenses when a provider is unwilling to wait for reimbursement through the normal claims process. These expenses are paid with funds advanced by the state to facilitate the claims process. The original amount advanced in 1999 for this purpose was $25,000. This revolving fund was increased to the current amount of $200,000 as approved by the board of supervisors on October 2, 2007. This proposed agreement with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board will continue the process.”
In a somewhat related move, the board of supervisors also appropriated $25,000 toward the purchase of prepaid Target, Walmart and Stater Bros purchase cards to be provided to crime victims in emergency situations.
“The district attorney’s office has been using prepaid cards to assist victims of crime since 2003,” Fermin said. “This crisis response tool is used for the immediate needs of crime victims to purchase hygiene products, clothes, diapers, formula and other pressing needs faced by these victims, thus providing for the social services needs of county residents. Approval of this item will allow the district attorney’s office to continue to distribute these prepaid cards as an efficient way to deliver direct services to victims of crime in emergency situations.”
The prepaid cards, in $25 denominations, are available for three stores: Target, Wal-Mart and Stater Bros.
Fermin said, “These stores were selected because they exist in all regions of the county and are the most accessible for victims. Prior to disbursing prepaid cards, victims are required to provide identification and a police report to the district attorney’s office listing them as the victim of the stated crime.”
According to Fermin, “Unclaimed victim restitution money held in trust is the source of funds for the purchase of these prepaid cards. Government Code section 50050 authorizes the county to use these unclaimed monies after a three-year period for the purposes of providing direct victim services. Historically, the district attorney’s office has not disbursed prepaid cards in an amount exceeding $10,000 in a fiscal year. However, the not-to-exceed amount of $25,000 being recommended for 2014-15 allows for any extraordinary and unexpected situations that could arise.”

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