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State panel spends more, helps less

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McGreevy is a Times staff writer.

Crime victims in California are getting less financial help from a state victim compensation fund, and too much is spent on administering the program, according to a state audit released Tuesday.

The amount of victim compensation payments fell from $123.9 million in the 2001-02 fiscal year to $61.6 million four years later -- a 50% decline.

The payments last year were $81.2 million, still below the amount paid seven years ago, according to California Auditor Elaine Howle’s report.

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“Despite the significant decline in payments, the costs the board incurs to support the program have increased,” Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “These costs -- ranging from 26 percent to 42 percent annually -- account for a significant portion of Restitution Fund disbursements.”

The cut in payments was the result of action by the state Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board to avoid the fund running out of money before all claims were handled, said Miles Bristow, a board spokesman. He said payments have gone up and administrative costs have gone down in the last few years as the board has increased the amount allowed for claims for mental health services, burial and other needs. Julie Nauman, the board’s executive director, agreed with the audit’s recommendations, which included refining goals to maximize help to victims.

The fund is financed with restitution fines levied against convicted criminals, as well as federal grants. Last year, 50,895 claims from crime victims were filed, a 4% increase from the year before.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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