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New Report: Red Tape and Legislative Barriers Preventing Survivors of Gun Violence from Accessing Federal Resources Set Aside for Compensation and Healing


Amid Burdensome Restrictions, Survivors of Gun Violence are Left Without State and Federal Aid; States Can Take Straightforward Steps to Help Survivors Access Life-Changing Resources

Report Comes During National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 18-24

On Saturday, Everytown Survivor Network Will Host a National Virtual Summit for Survivors And Loved Ones of Victims of Gun Violence

NEW YORK — Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund today released a new report, Hurdles to Healing, that details the administrative and legislative barriers that prevent survivors of gun violence from accessing millions of dollars of victim compensation each year.  The funding in question is a mix of federal Victims of Crime Act compensation dollars and state funds, set aside each year  to compensate survivors dealing with sudden financial setbacks (such as mental and physical health care, lost earnings, and burial costs) resulting from gun violence and other crime. 

Among other findings, Everytown researchers determined:

  • Survivors of crime were required to wait long periods of time – in Kentucky, an average of 1,080 days or nearly three years – for a decision about whether the state would compensate them for financial losses related to their victimization. 
  • Average victim compensation payout per application varies widely state to state. In FY 2019, average payouts per approved application for an individual ranged from $514 in Hawaii to $6,938 in Missouri. See a state-by-state breakdown here.
  • For survivors eligible for these funds, barriers to access include: filing deadlines and long processing times, the criminal history of the survivor; required cooperation with law enforcement; and general awareness of the availability of victim compensation funds. 
  • A criminal justice reform bill passed in Illinois this year includes strong provisions designed to expand utilization of these funds and can be used as a model by other states

“Gun violence survivors are losing out on millions of dollars of victim compensation every year,” said Michael-Sean Spence, director of community safety initiatives at Everytown for Gun Safety. “Fortunately, this is a problem that policymakers can solve. By removing burdensome barriers to access, states can take to put more of this funding to work helping survivors grappling with physical wounds, trauma or sudden changes in their financial circumstances.”

“When help is readily available, it’s particularly painful to be denied support because of arbitrary rules,” said Dion Green, whose father Derrick Fudge died in his arms after being shot in the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. “The months after my father was killed were draining —mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially – and help covering burial costs would have taken one challenge off my plate at a time I faced so many. My story is far from unique, and together, the experiences of so many of us make clear the need for action.”

“As gun violence continues to rise, the tragic reality is that there are more survivors and families left behind who are not always finding the support they need,” said Keenon James, Director of the Everytown Survivor Network whose brother Sean was shot and killed in 1993 in Takoma Park, Maryland. “During Crime Victims’ Right Week, we must recommit ourselves to ensuring that survivors have the tools to heal and that we are taking action to prevent future tragedies from gun violence.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • Expanding eligibility by ensuring that a survivor’s criminal history does not automatically prohibit them from accessing compensation
  • Expanding eligibility by easing law enforcement cooperation requirements that may be prohibitive for survivors, including survivors who do not trust law enforcement, who fear retaliation, or who were victimized by a loved one.
  • Increasing survivor awareness of compensation programs and ensuring survivors can receive assistance from advocates outside of the criminal justice system.
  • Expediting claim eligibility determinations and claim disbursements by investing in administrator training and staffing.

VOCA funding comes from a federal reserve, made available every year to each state. While federal restrictions exist, states have instituted their own restrictions through legislation or administrative rules, preventing survivors of gun violence from accessing funds that would support their healing. In the report, Everytown for Gun Safety makes recommendations for states to ease barriers to accessing victim compensation, particularly those barriers that disproportionately impact Black, Latino, and Indigenous gun violence survivors.

Also during National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, the Everytown Survivor Network will host a national virtual summit Saturday at 12 p.m. ET for survivors and loved ones of victims of gun violence. Panelists will include Congressman Dwight Evans (D-PA) who sponsored the Resources for Victims of Gun Violence Act, which would establish an interagency Advisory Council to gather and disseminate information about the resources, programs and benefits that can help victims of gun violence; Counsel of Policy and Implementation at Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund and author of the report, Melissa Paquette; Survivor advocate, Dion Green, who was denied access to victim’s compensation after his father was shot in the dayton shooting because of a prior conviction; Oji Eggleston, Executive Director of Chicago Survivors, and many other speakers.