The Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act will now protect living eugenics victims receiving compensation payments by excluding their payments from being used in determining eligibility for, or the amount of, federal safety net benefits.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, President Obama signed S. 1698, the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act into law, which will help protect living eugenics victims receiving compensation payments by excluding their payments from being used in determining eligibility for, or the amount of, federal safety net programs such as Medicaid, Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, Supplemental Security Income, and SSI-Disabled. The legislation was authored by Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tom Carper (D-DE), and co-sponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-NC), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Without this law, eugenics victims who receive compensation payments could have had their federal safety net benefits reduced or their eligibility eliminated altogether.
State-run eugenics and compulsory sterilization laws victimized more than 60,000 Americans in 33 states from the 1920s to the 1970s. State governments often targeted specific groups for sterilization, including unmarried women, African-Americans, and children from poor families.
In 2013, Tillis, then the North Carolina Speaker of the House, partnered with State Rep. Larry Womble to break through longstanding political gridlock in order to make North Carolina the first state in the nation to compensate the victims of its state-run eugenics program. In 2014, more than 200 North Carolina victims were awarded their first compensation payment of approximately $20,000 each. Recently, victims received their second eugenics compensation payment, worth an additional $15,000 each.
Last year, Virginia became the second state to pass legislation compensating the victims of a state-run eugenics program. Virginia will award $25,000 to each individual who was involuntarily sterilized and is still alive as of February 1, 2015.
“The victims of North Carolina’s eugenics program have already endured so much throughout their lives, and this law will help protect them by ensuring their restitution payments will not negatively impact their eligibility for federal safety net benefits,” said Senator Thom Tillis. “I also hope this law will increase the American public’s awareness of a dark and shameful chapter in our nation’s history that resulted in the sterilization of American citizens against their will. The subsequent fight for justice would not have been possible without the unrelenting activism of leaders like former state Rep. Larry Womble. We are better as a people, a state and a nation for acknowledging the sins of the past and fighting for justice on behalf of the victims.”
“People who’ve been subjected to horrifying sterilization practices as a result of misguided eugenics programs have already had to live with unfathomable loss and hardship,” said Senator Tom Carper. “These individuals shouldn’t be penalized for compensation funds that they have received for their suffering, especially because it can never repair the pain they’ve had to endure. I’m proud that Congress came together across party lines to approve this important effort to ensure that no person loses important federal benefits because they received this type of compensation.”