North Carolina's Sterilization Victims Foundation is once again accepting requests for help from those who think they or a family member may have been forcibly sterilized by the state's Eugenics Program between 1929 and 1974.
The Foundation had been told to stop accepting record search requests as of June 20th. That's when Republican lawmakers agreed to a budget compromise that zeroed out the funding for the office.
A subsequent technical corrections bill, Senate Bill 187, reopened the Foundation's doors. But it didn't include any money to pay for it, instead requiring the Department of Administration to find "up to $128,618" in its budget to keep the office running.
"The technical corrections bill didn’t identify any new funds, so the Department of Administration had to take a close look to see where they could trim those funds," said Foundation director Charmaine Fuller Cooper, now the sole staffer for the office.
She says the DOA has committed to provide funding for the program as long as the department is fiscally sound. The DOA will evaluate the next steps.
"The plan right now is to continue the foundation as usual," Cooper said. "We still have quite a few searches that need to be finished."
Even after the June 20th cut-off, Cooper said, she received a lot of calls from people who said they'd "just found out about" the foundation.
"We’re going to continue to accept any new inquiries that people have as to whether they were the victim of the eugenics process until someone tells me otherwise," Cooper pledged.
A proposal to offer $50,000 to surviving victims of the eugenics program passed the House with strong bipartisan support, but died in the Senate when Republicans there refused to sign off on it.
Cooper said she's spoken with a lot of victims about the bill's failure. "Some of them were outraged and felt totally disrespected," she said. "Other victims had their hopes up, but they never really believed the state would fulfill its promise."
House Speaker Thom Tillis (R-Mecklenburg) and Majority Leader Paul Stam (R-Wake) say they believe a eugenics compensation package will pass in 2013.
But for now, Cooper says, all she's promising anyone is information.
"At this point, since the bills are dead, I’m trying to make sure not to re-victimize them over again," she said.