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Originally published: 2013-07-25 17:31:06
Last modified: 2013-07-25 17:46:00

Funds budgeted for eugenics victims

by Anna Oakes

The state budget approved by the General Assembly Wednesday includes $10 million to provide compensation to verified victims of the state's forced sterilization program.

The state's forced sterilization (eugenics) program lasted from 1929 to 1974. An estimated 7,600 North Carolinians - including women and men who were poor, undereducated, institutionalized, sick and disabled - were sterilized under the authority of the N.C. Eugenics Board.

A multiyear effort to compensate victims stalled in 2012 when the N.C. House approved compensation funding in a state budget bill, but the Senate did not.

Senate Bill 402, the two-year state appropriations bill, authorizes a nonrecurring appropriation of $10 million to create a fund to compensate verified living victims of the state's eugenics program.

But depending on how many more victims are verified, compensation payments to each victim may not reach the $50,000 figure recommended by the state's Eugenics Compensation Task Force in January 2012.

That's because the bill language states that each verified victim will receive a sum equal to $10 million divided by the total number of verified victims.

According to the bill, claims for verification and compensation must be submitted by June 30, 2014.
The claim process began in 2012, coordinated by the North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation office.

According to Chris Mears, public information officer for the N.C. Department of Administration, 177 victims have thus far been verified statewide, including three in Ashe County and two in Avery County.

No living victims have been identified in Watauga County.

If $10 million were to be split between 177 people, the compensation amount per person would be $56,497.

In 2012, the task force estimated that living victims could number between 1,500 and 2,000 people.

In 2012, the Watauga Democrat interviewed Margaret Owens McCoy, a then 72-year-old Ashe County resident who said she was unknowingly sterilized as a teenager.

McCoy said she had received confirmation from the state that she had been verified as a match with state sterilization records.

The North Carolina Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation office is currently vacant after running out of funding last month, Mears said, but the budget bill authorizes $130,000 in funding to continue office operations.

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