ORLANDO – The special fund created to help the victims of the Pulse shooting massacre has collected more than $17 million, and the City of Orlando is now setting up the process for getting that money to the victims of the deadly attack.
As part of that, the city has entered into a partnership with several organizations that serve the LGBT community, including Equality Florida, the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida and the National Compassion Fund.
These organizations will work to ensure that the funds contributed to OneOrlando get disbursed honestly, and they will also safeguard against fraud.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer noted that the amount raised is a clear indication that the Central Florida area has rallied together in the face of this terrible tragedy.
“Words cannot express how grateful we continue to be for the outpouring of generosity our community’s received as the people from around the globe continue to contribute funds to OneOrlando to deliver the critical help and healing the victims’ families and survivors need to aid in their recovery,” Dyer said in a release from the city.
On June 12, a lone gunman shot and killed 49 people inside Pulse, a gay nightclub near downtown Orlando. The gunman, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and wounded 53 others before Orlando Police shot and killed him.
The City of Orlando then established the OneOrlando Fund to provide direct financial assistance to the victims and their families.
Using social media accounts, Equality Florida raised $7 million for the fund. Equality Florida is a statewide organization that works on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community.
“We made three promises to all donors to the victim’s fund from day one: Every penny we receive will go to victims and survivors without exception,” noted Nadine Smith, the organization’s executive director. “We would be transparent about the process for disbursement and we would do everything to expedite the funds while screening carefully for fraudsters. This partnership maintains those commitments and increases the funding dedicated to those who died and those whose lives have been shattered by this vicious hate crime.”
The city also appointed attorney Kenneth R. Feinberg, considered the world’s foremost expert on victim compensation, to administer the OneOrlando Fund with the National Compassion Fund.
NCF is a program of the National Center for Victims of Crime, a nonprofit group that works to assist victims in the aftermath of mass shootings.
“Feinberg will work with the Orlando community to develop a protocol that outlines how OneOrlando funds will be distributed directly to victims’ families and survivors,” the city noted in a news release.
The city noted that Feinberg plans to meet with the OneOrlando Fund board and work out a framework for the distribution of funds.
The city also announced that there will be two town hall meetings on Aug. 4 at the Amway Center to get feedback on this process from the victims’ families, survivors and the Orlando community.
Claims will be reviewed, and payments distributed, by Oct. 1, 2016, the city announced.
The city also established an Orlando United Assistance Center to become a navigation point for people who need support and want to schedule an appointment by calling 407-500-HOPE or by visiting cityoforlando.net/hope.
Donations are still being accepted. To support the victims’ families and survivors, visit OneOrlando.org.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..