ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) — OneOrlando Fund Administrator Ken Feinberg gave a detailed overview of OneOrlando Fund’s draft protocol and asnwered audience questions about the compensation process during its first town hall at the Amway Center this afternoon for victims and families of those affected by the PULSE shooting.
Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins called meeting to order. OneOrlando Fund Administrator Ken Feinberg briefly explained that the OneOrlando Fund Board will not make any decisions today, but are here to listen to the needs of the public.
Feinberg’s public disaster experience includes the 9/11 Fund, BP Oil Spill, OneBoston Fund, and the tragic theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado.
National Center for Victims of Crime Executive Director Maria Cristina Fernandez (who spoke English and Spanish) reassured the audience that they are here to listen and hear “the things that are bothering you and the things that you want to hear.” She formally introduced Feinberg to the stage.
Feinberg prefaced his comments by saying he has done “too many of these funds. We would gladly not be here.” He promised that 100% of the OneOrlando Fund proceeds will be distributed to the families, and that there are “zero overhead costs.” “Money is a very poor substitute for loss…for what you have all suffered over the last few months.” He stated the OneOrlando Fund currently has about $23 million to be distributed so far. But he exhorted, “Do not believe that that money is adequate.”
The final protocol will be done in the next two weeks, and according to Feinberg, all funds should be distributed by the end of September. Families of the deceased, those physically injured (inlcuding those who were in the hospital), and those who were trapped in the club and managed to escape without injury are eligible. According to Feinberg, they cannot go beyond those parameters because the Fund Board wants to ensure the families get a “meaningful”. Distribution for the families has to be meaningful. He doesn’t know yet the allocation per eligible claimant. The final decision on that payout will be made in the next few weeks.
The most money goes to those with dead victims. Secondly, length of hospital time is the parameter for how much money is given to those who sustained physical injury (a month or more, three week, two weeks, or those admitted to the emergency room or had outpatient care and were sent home).
For proof of those trapped in the club, they will defer to the police who he claimed to have evidence of who was in the club that night.
Everyone who is eligible must file a claim at OneOrlando.org or NationalCompassionFund.org. OneOrlando@ncvc.org or 855-484-2846. Claims will be collected starting after the finalized protocol in the middle of August.
The funds will be distributed electronically from OneOrlando Fund to the claimant’s bank. Checks will be hand-delivered by courier. None will be mailed. Only a person designated by the Orlando Probate Court to represent a lost loved one can make a claim, and has to consent to collect the payment. Unresolved money will be paid to the probate court and left to the family to make arrangements.
For those who have sustained physical injury and were hospitalized, attached to the claim form must be a letter from the hospital confirming the claimant’s duration, which will determine the claimant’s disbursement. Hostage victims will be verified against police reports.
Is the money received taxable? Feinberg recommends claimants check with their tax advisor or accountant to find out.
Alex Martins and the OneOrlando Fund Board have mandated a full independent audit and a public report of it to show exactly what funds went in and out.
“Every time we have to do one of these compensation programs, it is a horror. We don’t want to have to do these,” Feinberg said. “We serve without compensation…We are here to serve the community because we are asked to do so. And like most Americans, we step up when asked.”
The video of today’s town hall meeting is available on OneOrlando.org and NationalCompassionFund.org, and people can start registering online now.
Anita Busch, a national victim activist who lost her cousin Micayla in the Aurora theater shooting, let the Orlando survivors know they are not alone. She and her two colleagues, shooting survivor Jennifer Longdon–who was left paralyzed–and Bob Weiss, who lost his daughter Veronika in the Santa Barbara mass shooting, came here to counsel anyone in the audience with questions or provide consolation.
“When a child loses a parent, they lose a big part of their past…but when a parent loses a child, they lose a big part of their future,” said Bob Weiss, who received nothing out of the fundraiser for the Santa Barbara massacre, despite the “couple million” that were raised. He hasn’t worked in a year because of his PTSD. He was able to apply for disability through the Social Security Administration, which disburses $25,000 per year to support his family.
“Welcome to our family that you never wanted to be a part of,” said Jennifer Longdon. “It grows by three hundred and twenty people every single day.” She recommended the Center for Independent Daily Living for those who have not been disabled by the PULSE shooting.
National Center’s Jeff Deon explained that Crime Victim Compensation is supplied by the Attorney General’s Office and that the OneOrlando Fund Board will work with the AG’s Office to remove its demand for remittance for those who receive compensation from the OneOrlando Fund.
The Orlando Victim Assistance Center will assist people with acquiring probate assistance (407-500-HOPE or cityoforlando.net/hope). Furthermore, during the town hall, the Orange County Probate Court announced that anyone requesting probate assistance for OneOrlando Fund distribution will be fast-tracked.