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Town Hall Meeting On Distributing OneOrlando Fund

Pulse. Photo by Amy Green
Pulse. Photo by Amy Green

The first of two town hall meetings took place Thursday afternoon to inform survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting about how payments will be made from the OneOrlando Fund. 90.7’s Catherine Welch was there and joins us.

CRYSTAL: Catherine, Kenneth Feinberg who managed similar funds after the Boston Marathon bombing and 9/11. He’s consulting on the OneOrlando Fund and rolled out the process. How is this going to work?

CATHERINE: Feinberg stressed that right now the plan is just a draft, but basically there’s a formula set up for payments on a sliding scale ranging from family members who lost loved ones to those who were injured and treated at the hospital and then those who were at the club at the time of the shooting.

CRYSTAL: Feinberg told the crowd that only one person should be designated as the personal representative of one of the 49 who died.

CATHERINE: Yes, and they need to get that through a probate court in Orlando, and the Orlando Victim’s Assistance Center will help families go through the process.

CRYSTAL: Now Catherine, those who were treated for injuries have to detail how long they were in the hospital – why is that?

CATHERINE: As Feinberg explained the amount of time spent in the hospital shows how serious the injury was. For example, someone who was treated and released that night likely suffered a smaller injury than someone who spent days or weeks in the hospital. And Feinberg stressed that he doesn’t want to see medical records. He wants a letter on hospital letterhead that give the person’s admission and release dates attached to the claims form and that’s it. Feinberg says this will speed up the distribution process.

CRYSTAL: Catherine, what about those who were at the club?

CATHERINE: Feinberg warned that people filing claims that they were there, need to show proof by getting documents from law enforcement who recorded who was there that night.

CRYSTAL: And Feinberg was asked about what if there’s no proof that they were there?

CATHERINE: He answered that there has to be proof. He suspects that police would have wanted to talk with as many people who were there as possible. So even if names weren’t collected that night, then in the weeks after the shooting, anyone who was there should have been in touch with police. Feinberg in blunt terms said if there wasn’t a burden of proof he would be flooded with false claims.

CRYSTAL: And all of this documentation indeed points to the possibility of fraud. After the Boston Marathon Bombing funds went out two people were charged with fraud after they received checks. What did Feinberg says about making sure that doesn’t happen here?

CATHERINE: Those two were caught after the checks were cut. And Feinberg says he is very concerned about this and says efforts have to be made to make sure that it doesn’t happen here, and that’s why verification and proof are key. OneOrlando Fund Board chair Alex Martins of the Orlando Magic says this is why they have to make difficult decisions about providing proof, to make sure there are no fraudulent claims.

CRYSTAL: And there are other concerns about scams over the OneOrlando funds. And victims of other tragedies came to warn the Orlando crowd, what are their concerns?

CATHERINE: Crystal, one concern is that all the money collected goes directly to victims and not to organizations that will never disburse money collected. Feinberg assured the crowd that all of the OneOrlando Funds will go to victims. One man who lost his daughter at the UC Santa Barbara shooting told the crowd that he didn’t get a dime from the money raised after the UC Santa Barbara shooting.

CRYSTAL: What’s next for families of loved ones and victims?

CATHERINE: The claims form will be available next week, folks have until September 12th to get those forms in and Feinberg says the funds will start being disbursed by the end of September.

CRYSTAL: That seems like a quick turn around

CATHERINE: Feinberg says that’s the point – to get the money out as soon as possible. And if there’s a deadline it makes people focus on filing the claims. This is something he learned with the 9/11 and Boston Marathon bombing funds. In the 9/11 fund, Feinberg said two-thirds of all the claims came in as the final date approached.