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One Fund Boston Becomes Model For Potential National Victims’ Fund

BOSTON — The One Fund Boston has raised more than $30 million for victims of the Marathon bombings and final rules have been issued for how the money will be distributed.

Now the National Center for Victims of Crime is considering using the One Fund as a model to set up a central fund that would raise money for people anywhere in the country hurt in attacks involving mass casualties or multiple life-altering injuries.

WBUR’s All Things Considered host Sacha Pfeiffer spoke with the center’s executive director, Mai Fernandez, about the downsides of not having one centralized fund.

Mai Fernandez: I think what happens when you don’t have a national fund is that you start from ground zero every single time that there is a mass casualty. So there’s always an outpouring of generosity from the public, and when there’s no one central fund that’s automatically put out there and that people know where to give, you’ve got the possibility that people will set up fake funds, that the funds will be taken in by an entity that’s just putting themselves out there and trying to do the best that they can but aren’t really set up in a way to be able to take in and distribute these kinds of funds. Then all these are delays for the victims. They have needs that start on the day that they have injuries.

Sacha Pfeiffer: And part of the idea here is that rather than recreating the wheel every time, you’ve created one fund that can keep being the go-to place for this kind of thing?

Correct. That’s why the victims came to us. We weren’t really thinking about getting into this, but the victims from the Aurora [Colo.] shooting came to us at the end of last year and they said, “There’s a real need for a fund that’s set up and ready to go.” And literally as we were talking to them, the Sandy Hook [Connecticut school] shooting happened. And we saw the same kinds of things that happened in Aurora start up again in Sandy Hook.

You’ve said that you like the One Fund model, that that might be something worth emulating. What is it about that one that you think could be the template?

Well, it got out there right away. Within 48 hours there was a website up there, and it was endorsed by both the mayor and the governor of Massachusetts, so you knew that this was the real deal. It wasn’t somebody who was trying to be a fraudster and trying to take the victims’ money. It was the mayor and the governor that were setting this up. So it was a very identifiable fund that people could contribute to. Also, Ken Feinberg went in there right away, who has set up these funds before. And he knows how to set up a very fair way of distributing the money and ensuring that all the money gets to the victims and gets to the victims fast.

And administrative costs for this fund you’re proposing would be picked up by some corporate sponsor, so that every dollar donated would go directly to victims?

Right. We’re looking for an anchor or anchor funders that would pick up all the administrative costs. We want every dollar that somebody donates to go directly to the victim. I think that’s what people intend, that’s what people want. So we’re going to have administrative costs on our side, but we want to see if we can find somebody that could pick up those costs so that we can ensure that all the money goes out to the victims as quickly as possible.

One of the criticisms of One Fund Boston is that decisions on who gets how much money are not need-based, meaning it doesn’t matter how much you earn or whether you have health insurance or not. It’s just based on your injury. Do you like that model and you’re not concerned about that criticism?

You know, it’s a way that funds have been distributed like this in the past and it’s worked. If you start looking at need and you start looking at who has insurance and who doesn’t have insurance, you’re talking about a very, very long process that delays payments going out to victims. The whole idea behind this is, if you’re injured, nobody really cares if you’re rich or poor. You’re just an injured party that’s been victimized by a terror attack or by some horrible shooting, and we want to give you support. People can have their criticisms, but it’s a very fair way of getting funding to people who are very much in need.

Fernandez said many details still have to be worked out, including exactly what qualifies as a mass casualty or multiple life-altering injuries. She said the fund would probably not cover incidents of random urban violence.

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