The NAACP on Monday asked the governor and legislative leaders to extend Monday’s deadline for people to file claims from the state’s sterilization compensation fund.
The organization asked for a one-year extension of the deadline, in an open letter to Gov. Pat McCrory, Senate President Pro Temp Phil Berger, and House Speaker Thom Tillis.
Monday’s deadline was established last year when the $50,000 compensation fund was established. But this month fewer than 600 of the estimated 1,800 living victims had applied.
On Wednesday, two state senators spoke on the Senate floor asking their colleagues to spread the word that the deadline was approaching.
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In response to the NAACP’s request, Tillis’ spokeswoman Anna Roberts issued this statement:
“Extending the deadline would delay the payment to some qualified recipients. The bi-partisan House budget passed earlier this month would actually accelerate the first payment date and extending the deadline would jeopardize that effort. The Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims has actively sent a thousand direct mail pieces, made hundreds phone calls and partnered with other agencies to attempt to reach as many victims as possible. It’s time for the qualified recipients to receive their compensation.”
Update: Josh Ellis, the governor’s communications director, also issued a statement in response:
“This claim is another example of Rev. Barber seeking to make a last-minute political statement instead of assisting some of the very people he is charged to help. Further delay of the June 30 deadline will force eugenics victims to wait longer to receive this long-overdue compensation while many victims are dying every year. The governor is proud to be from the first state in the nation that will address the injustice that was committed against eugenics victims.”
The compensation program got underway in November and began looking for victims through letters, phone calls, news media coverage and several state agencies, including Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Motor Vehicles, Council for Women, Commission of Indian Affairs, Human Relations Commission, Governors Office of Community and Constituent Affiars and also the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
The letter, signed by Rev. William Barber II, says the state wasn’t aggressive enough letting people know about the fund. The NAACP calls for extending the deadline at a minimum, saying no deadline should prevent people from receiving just compensation. It says the state should more aggressively seek out victims over the next year.
The last-minute letter reminds legislative leaders that a bill proposing to extend the deadline for three months was filed a month ago in the House, but buried in the Rules Committee. The bill, HB1241, was sponsored by a group of House Democrats.
The deadline is 5 p.m. Monday.