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Cuomo Extends Child Victims Act Window Until January

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking May 8, 2020.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo speaking May 8, 2020.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is extending a one-year lookback window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits for an additional five months, to mid-January. The Democrat announced the change at his daily coronavirus briefing Friday, where he also said his health officials are looking into a new related illness in children that killed a five-year-old boy on Thursday.

The Child Victims Act opened a one-year window for New Yorkers who were sexually abused as children that lifts the statute of limitations to file civil suits against their alleged abusers. It was set to expire in mid-August, but because the courts have been virtually closed since March, many have been unable to proceed with their legal actions. Cuomo says victims will now have until January 14 to sue.  

“People need access to the courts to make their claim,” Cuomo said. "Justice too long delayed is justice denied." 

Sponsors of the original measure had sought to extend the look back window for another full year. 

Senate sponsor Brad Hoylman, a Democrat, says while he “applauds” the governor’s action, he would still like to pass a law to extend the time until August 2021.  

Also Cuomo says his health department officials are investigating a potential serious side effect of COVID-19 that has sickened 73 children. It inflames the blood vessels and major organs and is similar to Kawasaki disease or toxic shock syndrome. It has sent dozens of children to the hospital, and resulted in at least one death, a 5 year-old-boy who passed away on Thursday. 

“This would be really painful news and open up an entirely different chapter,” said Cuomo, who said previously it was believed that while children could transmit, the disease, they did not become seriously ill from the virus. 

“We may want to revisit that quote, unquote fact, that assumption,” Cuomo said. 

The child was one of 213 New Yorkers who died from COVID-19 on Thursday. The numbers are down significantly from mid-April, when more than 700 people died each day. Cuomo says while the daily death toll is still terrible news, he believes that for the first time, the state is finally ahead of the virus. And he hopes a slow and cautious reopening of society that could begin later this month, will keep it that way.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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