When Families of Homicide Victims are Denied Aid

Posted: March 12, 2020

Help for Grieving Mothers –

A bill in the State Assembly’s current session seeks to help more families of homicide victims obtain financial assistance to pay for funerals and other expenses in the aftermath of violence. Families of the killed in California are eligible for funds meant to, among other things, help allay funeral costs. Funerals are expensive and many families of homicide victims are already struggling when a killing occurs. The sudden violent death of a loved-one brings a sudden financial burden as well. The median cost of a funeral is over $7,000. An important part of what Youth ALIVE!’s Caught in the Crossfire program does is to assist reeling families in navigating the victim compensation application process. By and large, this compensation represents a small blessing for traumatized victims.

But some families are being denied this help for reasons out of their control.

California Victim Compensation eligibility rules can be restrictive and unfair. Families can be denied for things completely out of their control. If a police report suggests that the victim might have been committing a crime when he was killed, the family is denied help. If the family is deemed to be uncooperative in an investigation, even if the problem is only a language barrier, they can be denied help. Already devastated by their sudden violent loss, families sometimes have to work for weeks to collect enough money to have their loved one’s body transferred from the coroner to a funeral home. Often families are forced to cremate their loved one against their wishes, because cremation is less expensive than burial.

Over the winter, Youth ALIVE! Policy & Advocacy Manager Gabriel Garcia and homicide response team crisis responder Jessica Segura, whose job is to support families in the immediate aftermath of a killing, spent time in Sacramento educating Assembly members about this gap in the victim compensation system. In February, Shirley Weber (D-79) agreed to sponsor a bill to close the gap. Other members are beginning to sign on, including the East Bay’s Buffy Wicks. The first hearing for the bill is set for March 24th.

We could use your help in getting AB 2649 passed. It’s as easy as a quick call to the Assemblymembers on the Public Safety Committee with the following message:

All grieving mothers deserve to be able to bury their children with dignity. Please support AB 2649 to expand victim compensation rules to support all California families who have lost a loved one to violence.

Public Safety Committee Member Phone Numbers

Reggie Jones-Sawyer (Chair) (916) 319-2059
Tom Lackey (Vice Chair) (916) 319-2036
Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (916) 319-2016
Tyler Diep (916) 319-2072
Sydney Kamlager (916) 319-2054
Bill Quirk (916) 319-2020
Miguel Santiago (916) 319-2053
Buffy Wicks (916) 319-2015