CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Tuesday, September 27, 2016, the House will consider S. 1698, the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act, under suspension of the rules. S. 1698 was introduced on June 25, 2015, by Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC). The bill passed the Senate without amendment on November 30, 2015 by unanimous consent. In the House, it was referred to the Oversight and Government Reform, which ordered the bill reported on December 9, 2015 by unanimous consent.
S. 1698 exempts payments made under a State eugenics compensation program from being considered income or resources in determining the eligibility for, or amount of, any federal public benefit. The exemption allows elderly victims of state eugenics programs to receive compensation for their states’ actions against them without losing eligibility for needed federal benefits as a result of the temporary increase in income from this one-time award.
In the early part of the 20th century, 32 states had some form of eugenics program. Forced sterilization of individuals considered to be unfit for reproduction was a prominent part of those programs. States targeted the mentally handicapped, as well as poor teenagers from large families, people with epilepsy, young rape victims, and people deemed ‘‘feeble-minded’’ by dubious early versions of IQ tests. Two states with particularly aggressive eugenics programs were North Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina even granted social workers the power to designate people for sterilization.
Virginia and North Carolina have both enacted programs to provide compensation to victims of their sterilization programs. North Carolina’s program awards approximately $20,000 to each victim, with a possible increase to $45,000 if no further victims are identified. Virginia’s program awards $25,000 to each living victim. Without a change in current federal law, these compensation payments would count against the victim’s eligibility for federal benefits like Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance.
According to the bill’s sponsor, “I am proud that the Senate was able to come together to unanimously pass legislation that ensures federal laws do not unintentionally punish victims who receive eugenics compensation by preventing them from receiving the federal benefits they are entitled to. It is my hope this will further increase the public’s awareness of the horrors and injustices of state-run eugenics and sterilization programs and help persuade other states to follow the lead of North Carolina and create their own eugenics compensation programs.”
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that enacting S. 1698 would increase direct spending by $5 million over the 2016-2025 period. Pay-as-you-go procedures apply because direct spending is affected, but implementing the legislation would not affect revenues.
For questions or further information please contact Jake Vreeburg with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 5-0190.