South Carolina officials are expanding a program which offers financial assistance to the surviving families of homicide victims.
In their budget approved by Gov. Henry McMaster last week, legislators added an extra $2,500 to the amount families receive from the Attorney General’s Department of Crime Victim Compensation. Those grants pay for funerals or burial for loved ones killed in criminal acts or road accidents involving DUI or other homicide charges.
Crime Victim Services Director Burke Fitzpatrick says the amount will increase from $4,000 to $6,500. “When we looked at the amounts we were able to provide as a maximum for families, we found we were out of step with many other states in the country,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
The Attorney General’s Office said of the 344 funerals in the 2016-2017 fiscal year, 258 of them cost more than the $4,000 cap. The agency paid $1.2 million that year and would have paid an additional $530,000 had the budget proviso been in effect that year.
“That’s certainly more in step with funeral costs throughout South Carolina,” Fitzpatrick said. “And I think it’s going to ease the burden for families that lost a loved one who would not otherwise be able to have a respectful, decent funeral.”
The maximum had not been raised since 1996. The funds come from fees and fines in South Carolina’s court system.
There are some limitations to who can receive the benefit. The crime must have occurred in South Carolina (although families can use the money to pay for a body’s transportation to another state) and the victim could not have been involved in criminal activity themselves when they died.