If you — or someone you know — have been a victim of a violent crime, you might be eligible for reimbursement from the state of Illinois to help cover some of your costs. Recent changes to the Illinois Crime Victim Compensation Program have made it easier for applicants to be approved for assistance, and to receive their money quicker. You can read more about these changes here. Many people, however, still don’t know about the program or find the application process daunting. We’re breaking it down and sharing useful tips on eligibility and access. You can apply online here.

Who can apply?

  • A person who was injured during a violent crime in Illinois.
  • A person who was injured while helping a victim or assisting law enforcement.
  • Anyone who lives in the same household as a person killed or injured, if they have a relationship akin to a parent, spouse, or child. Siblings under 18 can apply for counseling expenses.
  • A witness to a crime whose name is included in the police report.
  • An Illinois resident who was injured in another country, state, or territory that doesn’t have a compensation program.

What about citizenship or imprisonment?

  • Citizenship status does not matter.
  • If the applicant or victim is held in a correctional institution, they cannot apply.

What is considered a “violent crime”?

More than 20 crimes, including homicides, assaults, and domestic battery, qualify. Read the full list here.

The crime must have been reported to law enforcement within 72 hours.

Which costs are eligible for reimbursement, and for how much money?

Applicants can receive up to $45,000. In 2022, the average reimbursement was $6,600 per person.

Expenses include: 

  • Funeral and burial expenses up to $10,000
  • Wage losses up to $2,400, including time used to handle related issues like funeral preparation and court appearances
  • Dependent support loss up to $2,400
  • Replacement service loss up to $1,250 per month to help an injured victim pay for help with things they can no longer do, including childcare
  • Costs for replacing things like locks, windows, prosthetic devices, clothing, bedding, eyeglasses, and hearing aids
  • Relocation or temporary lodging, including the security deposit and two month’s rent or coverage for an extended period of up to a year to move
  • Healthcare costs including hospital, transportation, dental, and counseling
  • Related expenses, including crime scene cleanup, tattoo removal for victims of human trafficking, tuition loss, and rental equipment that made an applicant’s property, including a home or vehicle, useable or accessible.

Expenses covered by insurance cannot be reimbursed, but copays can be.

To receive compensation, you have to prove that you exhausted other financial options.

After a crime, people may seek help from GoFundMe; those donations aren’t deducted from award totals.

When can I apply?

The sooner you apply, the sooner you’ll get paid. But if you need time to process your experience, adults can apply within five years of a crime.

An adult with a debilitating disability, including PTSD, can apply three years after the disability has ended or improved. 

A minor can apply within three years after they turn 18.

If you missed your deadline, the attorney general may still accept your application if it is determined that you had a good reason for the delay.

Kisha Nelson lost her son in March of 2023. Here, she displays a ribbon that was worn during Zaire’s funeral service. Sebastián Hidalgo for The Trace

How long does it take to receive funding?

It can take several months. In 2022, on average, approved applicants received funding within nine months.

What gets people denied?

Most denials are because of an applicant’s “failure to substantiate” their claim, which means you are still eligible for reimbursement but need to provide more documentation.

Policy and legislative changes have removed several barriers:

  • Cooperating with law enforcement is no longer a requirement
  • Medical care can be proof of victimization
  • Criminal history is no longer an automatic disqualifier

Have these documents on hand while applying:

  • Police reports
  • Any plenary domestic violence order of protection, a civil no-contact order, or a stalking no-contact order
  • Any civil lawsuit information
  • Proof of payment for services acquired and expenses incurred, including receipts, invoices, and payment plans, and the contact information of those service providers
  • Pay stubs and supporting documents that indicate your wages and any losses, and your employer’s contact information
  • Housing contract or invoices that indicate relocation costs
  • Insurance information
  • If you are working with an advocate, have their contact information ready

What happens after you apply?

You should receive a notification confirming your claim was filed, and you might receive a request for additional information. You have 45 days to respond but can request an extension. An additional 45 days is typically allowed.

If you are having any issues or missed a deadline, reach out to the Attorney General’s Office.

If your application is denied, you have 30 days to appeal the decision. Once appealed, a case is set before a Court of Claims commissioner, who submits a recommendation to a judge, who will enter the final decision.

Since 2023, the Attorney General’s Office has been charged with receiving complaints, investigating allegations, and making recommendations to address violations of crime victims’ rights. You can file a complaint online here.

Who is involved in the application process?

The attorney general is in charge of receiving applications, reviewing them, and making a determination. Afterward, the Court of Claims has 28 days to review the recommendation and if it agrees, an award determination is sent to the Comptroller’s Office for payment. The Comptroller’s Office then mails payments, either directly to the applicant or to the service provider, like a funeral home.

Unless you file an appeal, there are no court proceedings.

What if I have more questions?

For help, you can reach out to a violence prevention or victim advocacy group, including Purpose Over Pain, Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, Metropolitan Family Services, BUILD, UCAN, and Breakthrough Urban Ministries.

For more information, contact the Crime Victims Assistance Line at 1-800-228-3368, the text talk line at 1-877-398-1130, or visit the website here