(LOS ANGELES, CA) – Today, the California Victim Compensation Board (CalVCB) adopted final regulations to implement AB 629 (Smith/Gonzalez), which went into effect January 1, 2020, and provides human trafficking survivors the ability to recover lost income benefits like other crime victims in the state. Due to the leadership of the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (Cast), Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP (Gibson Dunn), Bet Tzedek Legal Services, and State Controller Betty Yee, California is the first state in the nation to recognize the specific commercial exploitation found in sex and labor trafficking crimes and compensate survivors through its crime victims fund.
“CalVCB has created some good news in today’s bleak landscape,” said Kay Buck, CEO of Cast. “Today’s economic realities and staggering unemployment rates mean this new benefit could be the only thing keeping a survivor from returning to trafficking.”
“Advocates have fought tirelessly for years to establish this benefit, and I’m glad implementation has already resulted in survivors receiving benefits. I thank Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking and Bet Tzedek Legal Services for their partnership on my Assembly Bill 629 becoming law, and hope this first-of-its-kind legislation providing justice and recovery for trafficking survivors will be enacted in other states too,” said Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita).
By updating regulations to allow alternative means of documenting lost income, AB 629 provides significant new assistance to human trafficking survivors who have not only lost years of their lives, but have also lost years of income as a result of commercial exploitation.
“We were honored to advocate for this critical reform on behalf of Cast and human trafficking survivors,” said Dhananjay Manthripragada, a partner at Gibson Dunn. “Survivors now have access to the same financial help and support that has been available to victims of other violent crimes in the state.”
Before the bill, human trafficking survivors could not prove income loss without formal employment documentation or the voluntary cooperation of their traffickers. These unrealistic requirements categorically prevented human trafficking survivors from accessing lost income benefits.
“Recovering lost income is critical to starting a new life – providing the possibility to secure housing, afford transportation, learn new skills, or other foundational needs,” said State Controller Betty Yee, California’s Chief Fiscal Officer and a CalVCB Board Member. “This important change in California law gives survivors of human trafficking a more hopeful future.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, CalVCB acted swiftly to ensure survivors of human trafficking could access this new benefit. Two survivors that Cast serves have already received checks in the mail – one for over $10,000.
“Cast clients have been so grateful to have CalVCB review their applications in such an efficient and timely manner. One client will be using her lost income compensation to provide herself with shelter during this pandemic,” said Amanda Ranaweera, Staff Attorney at Cast.
About the Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking
The Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking (Cast) is a Los Angeles–based nonprofit organization working to put an end to modern slavery and human trafficking through comprehensive, life-transforming services to survivors and a platform to advocate for groundbreaking policies and legislation. To find out more, visit www.castla.org or follow Cast on Twitter and Facebook.