The first set of payments to victims of the state’s eugenics program were mailed Monday, according to Gov. Pat McCrory’s office.
The checks for $20,000 went to 220 people whose claims were approved by the N.C. Industrial Commission. They made it out just ahead of the legislature’s Oct. 31 deadline.
Lawmakers last year set aside $10 million in the state budget to compensate victims of the program which operated between 1929 and 1974. About 7,600 women – mentally ill, disabled or simply poor – were sterilized by the state. Some counties had their own sterilization program but the sate law does not apply to those victims.
The state Office for Justice of Sterilization Victims received 786 claims by the deadline this summer. The balance of the money must be sent by June 30, 2015.
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Victims who are denied compensation can appeal.
In making the announcement, McCrory said in a statement: “Today is a day of reconciliation and healing. ... While no amount of money could undo the wrong that was done to these victims, I hope these payments bring some solace in their acknowledgment that the actions of the Eugenics Board were wrong. This is a new day for us all and brings us nearer to closing one of North Carolina’s darkest chapters.”
House Speaker Thom Tillis, who put his muscle behind legislation, also weighed in.
“I am proud to be a North Carolinian this week as our State is the first in the country to award long-overdue payments to victims of North Carolina’s forced sterilization program,” he said in statement. “While no amount of money will ever make up for the injustice these citizens and their families suffered at the hands of the State, it’s time for the qualified recipients to receive their compensation.”
Tillis, who is running for the U.S. Senate, also credited former Democratic Rep. Larry Womble of Winston-Salem, who spent years pushing legislation to compensate victims.