Victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., will receive financial support later this month from donations to the OneOrlando Fund after months of waiting and initial confusion about the method of distribution.
The OneOrlando Fund was established by Mayor Buddy Dyer and managed to raise more than $26 million in donations in four months. It's part of the sea of generosity that the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in the United States have received, following two major hospitals' decision to forgive more than $5 million in medical debt for the victims, donations from corporations and individuals, as well as grass-roots activism to ensure donations are given to those who are in need.
The fund, launched a few days after the massacre that killed 49 people and wounded 53 others, was initially criticized for its original plan to distribute money to charities and nonprofits instead of to victims and families directly. A statement written by families of victims from previous mass shootings, asserting that the funds should go directly to the victims in need, led the objections.
"Millions were poured in to Sandy Hook. Very little actually reached us," wrote Nelba Marquez-Greene in a blog for The Huffington Post in June. Ms. Marquez-Greene's daughter died in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. "Before you give – ask where your dollars will go. Specify that you want it to go to victim families."
Some victims families supported the donation drives by The National Compassion Fund and Equality Florida that set up a separate GoFundMe campaign for the victims. In response, the city promptly announced that it would adhere to the pleas and give the money directly to the family members and survivors. The GoFundMe campaign, which has raised more than $7.8 million from 119,474 donors, has since merged with the mayor's fund.
Many survivors of the June 12 shooting continue to face potential long-term health complications and expenses that include medical bills, long-term care costs, and lost wages.
"Victims and their families are left with a new reality and a multitude of needs, from long-term mental-health counseling, the rehabilitation of homes and vehicles to better accommodate the victims ... and even victims who must find new jobs or careers because they have difficulty returning to their former jobs," Mayor Dyer said in a July announcement, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Despite the outpouring of generosity, some experts – and the mayor himself – said the funds will not be enough to completely offset the bills surviving victims will incur, especially since many are still in treatment will not be able to return to work.
"The bills have already started to come in," Frederick Johnson, a survivor of the Pulse nightclub shooting who has lost the use of his left arm, told the Orlando Sentinel in August. "I've been really focused on … just recovering fully. It's stressful thinking about the long-term costs for everything because it's expensive."
The fund, which placed a Sept. 12 deadline for filing claims, has received 351 claims so far, and an administrator is currently in the process of verifying the forms. Before distribution of the funds, the OneOrlando Fund will have to identify the right individuals to receive compensation checks and sort out competing claims for some deceased victims. Those who have filed competing claims or lack documents will have until Sept. 26 to resolve the confusion to properly receive the compensation.
The payments will be issued on a rolling basis from Sept. 27, and will be distributed based on the "nature and number of injuries," according to the fund's website.