Governor Bev Perdue said Wednesday she will put $10.3 million in her budget this year for Eugenics-related efforts. That includes a $50,000 payment for living victims of the state's forced-sterilization program, which operated until the mid-1970s.
The governor's recommendation would be enough to compensate the first round of victims who have come forward and been verified in the records of the North Carolina Eugenics Board. The state estimates as many as 2,000 victims may still be alive, but only 132 people have been verified, so far. Of those, 118 are still living.
A task force appointed by the governor recommended lump sum payments of $50,000 for living eugenics victims. It'll be up to state lawmakers to approve the money when they draw up a budget in mid-May. Democratic State Representative Earline Parmon says $10.3 million is "very doable. . . particularly with the Speaker being in favor of it."
Parmon is working closely with Republican House Speaker Thom Tillis to rally legislative support for the compensation plan. The speaker has convened an informal group of lawmakers from both parties to work out the details. Chiefly, Parmon says they need to make sure payments are tax free and don't affect a victim's eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid.
"We're looking at the technical aspects of how that can be done without further victimizing them," says Parmon.
Speaker Tillis has vowed to have lawmakers consider eugenics victim compensation during their upcoming session. Democratic Senator Floyd McKissick says there will undoubtedly be some pushback on both sides of the aisle, but compensation shouldn't be delayed.
"Many of these victims are actually at the point in their lives they may not be with us much longer," says McKissick. "I'm sure some of them have passed away that had these procedures done to them back in the 30s. So there's a real need to move with all deliberate speed to ensure that those who might be eligible are, in fact, compensated."
The governor's $10.3 million budget recommendation comes with the understanding that additional funds will be allocated in future years as more living victims come forward. Some 7,600 men, women and children were sterilized by the North Carolina Eugenics Board. More than half of states had such programs. North Carolina would be the first to compensate its victims.