EL PASO, Texas - Members of the One Fund El Paso Task Force provided an update at a news conference Friday on draft protocols for delivering donated funds to victims, survivors and immediate family members of the Aug. 3 mass shooting.
The chair of the task force, former El Paso County Judge Ruben Vogt, said they've been working with the National Compassion Fund to come up with a process.
"It's incredibly unfortunate that there even has to be an organization that has been established to address situations like these, but we are incredibly fortunate to have the National Compassion Fund, which has provided incredible guidance over the last several weeks and will over the next few months," Vogt said. (You can watch the entire news conference in the video player below.)
The National Compassion Fund has worked with 13 different communities that have been affected by a mass shooting, including Las Vegas and Orlando.
The NCF has helped the One Fund Task Force draft some protocols on how the funds are distributed and how much the money will be given to the recipients. The organization will also verify the eligibility of those who apply to receive donations.
"What we've been asked to ask ourselves is, 'Is it the right thing to do, is it fair and can we practically accomplish it?'" Vogt said.
Those who will be eligible for funds include those who were at the Walmart, at the Sam's Club, or in an adjoining parking lot. There will be various categories of funding that will be determined by the level of impact.
The initial eligibility protocol is as follows:
- Families of victims killed as a result of the attack;
- Individuals who were physically injured and hospitalized for one or more nights;
- Individuals who were physically injured and received medical treatment on an outpatient basis; and
- Individuals who witnessed the attack or its aftermath and who experienced psychological trauma, which led them to seek ongoing mental health treatment
"Each category represents a different level of funding," Vogt said. "That amount will later be determined by the task force once we know how many victims and families have applied, and the final donation amount."
As of Sept. 13, $6 million has been donated to the fund, and slightly less than half a million dollars has been disbursed to the families of the 22 deceased and the 26 victims.
100 percent of the funds will be distributed to all the victims, including those who are not Americans, said Vogt. He added that the task force won't require the victims to disclose how they will spend the money and that the funds will be given with "no strings attached."
While the victims who've already deemed eligible will receive a disbursement of $2,000 in October, donations will no longer be accepted after Nov. 25. Plus, all the money won't be distributed until December, said Vogt.
The task force explained the delay in getting the funds to the victims.
"We are aware that many of the families receive need-based family benefits, such as TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), security supplemental income and Medicaid, and that many of these programs have restrictions on monies that come in," said task force member Beto Mesta, and attorney with Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid. "We're working with the victims who receive these types of benefits to make sure they get these donations without affecting the life-saving benefits."
Mesta also said some families had to determine heirs before they could receive the donations. In some cases, that designation had to be settled in court, Mesta added. Avoiding fraud by vetting the eligibility of victims was another timely process that delayed fund distribution.
The task force is urging victims, anyone who was at or near the site of the shooting, and the community at large to read the draft protocols (see document below) on the National Compassion Fund website. Everyone is also encouraged to offer their comments or suggestions by calling 855-4-VICTIM or attending the town hall at Bonham Elementary School, 7024 Cielo Vista Drive, on Sept. 26. It begins at 5:30 p.m.