Local News

Payments to eugenics victims still up in the air as budget process drags on

Posted September 16, 2015 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2015 6:52 p.m. EDT

— North Carolinians who were sterilized by the state's eugenics program have been waiting for the rest of their compensation from the state, but the process has been put on hold by the ongoing budget debate in the General Assembly.

More than 200 people who qualified for compensation were paid $20,000 in 2014, and if the budget compromise is passed, they'll get another $15,000.

When those people will receive money, however, is a very complicated matter.

Leland resident Elnora Mills is one of the people who received money in the fall. She married at the age of 17, and she and her husband tried to have a baby for months.

Eventually, she went to a doctor.

"When they ran tests on me, come to find out, they cut my tubes and everything and told me I could never have children," she said. "Still today, I don't know know why they fixed me."

Mills says she was sterilized without her knowledge or permission when doctors removed her appendix at age 16.

At age 64, even talking about the ordeal brings her to tears.

"It hurts. I can think about it and cry about it," she said. "I don't know why they fixed me like they did."

Mills' first payout helps pay some of her mounting medical bills – she has cancer and her husband suffers from heart disease and dementia. But the uncertainty has her concerned.

"I'd like to know if we are going to get the rest of the money or not," she said.

Mills says she can't forgive the state.

"They took my life away from me," she said.

Mills and the other victims of the state program thought they would each get about $50,000, but that's an estimate.

They will get another $15,000 after a budget amendment included in the compromise plan being voted on by the state House and Senate this week.

Lawmakers set aside $10 million in prior budgets to be divided among the people who applied for and qualified.

People turned down in the initial request period can appeal, and that process can last up to three years. Before paying out the first payments last fall, the state received 786 applications.

Until some of those appeals are settled, Mills and others initially approved to receive compensation will wait to see how much they will receive and when they will get it.