McHenry and Butterfield Introduce Bill to Help Victims Receiving Eugenics Compensation Payments

Jul 8, 2015
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Yesterday, Congressman Patrick McHenry (R-NC-10) and Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC-01) introduced H.R. 2949, the Treatment of Certain Payments in Eugenics Compensation Act.  This legislation would block all payments received from a state eugenics compensation program from being considered as income when determining eligibility for federal benefits.

During the early decades of the 20th century, over 30 states implemented eugenics or compulsory sterilization laws which led to the mandated sterilization of more than 60,000 citizens.  Those sterilized were overwhelming poor and were often unaware they were being victimized.  At the time, North Carolina was known to have one of the most aggressive sterilization programs, with only two states having been known to sterilize more of their citizens.

In 2013, North Carolina passed legislation becoming the first state to compensate victims of forced sterilization.  This legislation set aside $10 million in the state budget to compensate victims of the state's eugenics program.  As of the beginning of 2015, more than 200 victims have been awarded approximately $20,000 each in compensation.

H.R. 2949 was introduced to further assist victims of these programs by ensuring the payments victims receive do not count towards their eligibility for, or amount of, any benefits they receive from the Federal government.  This includes Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps), unemployment, Supplemental Security Income, and any other Federal benefits.

“North Carolina's eugenics program is a vestige of a dark period in our state's history which unfortunately still impacts our citizens today,” said Congressman McHenry.  “While we could never fully repay these victims for the trauma they suffered, this legislation ensures they are not further victimized for accepting the compensation they deserve.  I would like to thank Congressman Butterfield and Senator Tillis for their efforts supporting this legislation and I look forward to seeing it pass the House in the near future."

“Between 1929 and 1976 more than 7,000 people in North Carolina were sterilized in one of the nation’s most aggressive eugenic programs," said Congressman Butterfield.  “By the 1960s, African Americans accounted for nearly two thirds of sterilizations in that state, though they only comprised one quarter of the population.  Sadly we cannot undue the wrongs of our past.  Through this bill we hope to prevent additional hardship to eugenics victims by ensuring their eligibility for other federal benefit programs.”                  

On June 25th, Senator Thomas Tillis (R-NC) and Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) introduced S. 1698, the Senate companion to H.R. 2949.