By Sara Powers

LANSING, Mich (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday signed expansions to Michigan’s crime victim compensation fund, which ranks worst in the nation for application rates, according to the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

Hurdles in the state’s laws for victims and their families to apply for the crime victim compensation fund to get financial support to cover things like funeral costs and medical bills after a crime contributed to the ranking, according to the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

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The old law’s eligibility included requirements like reporting the crime to police within 48 hours, which supporters of the new laws said isn’t always possible for individuals after a traumatic event.

Michigan has taken steps to fix a problem in the law that has left victims of crimes and their loved ones without access to resources in the aftermath of a crime, the Alliance for Safety and Justice said in a news release Thursday.

Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a news release from the governor’s office Thursday, “without proper resources and assistance, those who survive a crime may never recover.”

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With bipartisan support, the legislature voted through changes including cutting out the 48-hour rule and extending the time to apply to the fund after a crime from one year to five years.

Those who were the victims of criminal sexual conduct before the age of 18 used to have until their 19th birthday to make a claim, but the new laws will cap the age at 28 if the victim has a reason for the delay.

The maximum claimants can get from the fund after a crime increased from $25,000 to $45,000 under the new laws and reimbursements for funeral expenses increased from $5,000 to $8,000.

The changes go into effect in August, 2024.

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