‘Not enough money’ in One Fund Boston, administrator says

Ken Feinberg, administrator for  One Fund Boston, waits to begin a town hall meeting about the fund on May 7, 2013.  Credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters
Ken Feinberg, administrator for One Fund Boston, waits to begin a town hall meeting about the fund Tuesday. Credit: Brian Snyder/Reuters

One Fund Boston administrator Kenneth Feinberg said the charity hasn’t raised enough money to fully compensate the Boston Marathon bombing victims.

“There’s not enough money here to pay everybody,” Feinberg said at a town hall meeting Tuesday. “When you look at the horror that happened here in Boston — the horror, the number of deaths, the number of horrible physical injuries, the number of people still in the hospital today — I assure you based on everything I’ve done in the past, including 9/11, there isn’t enough money to pay everybody who justifiably expects it or needs it. There’s not enough money.”

Three people were killed and 264 hurt when two pressure cooker bombs exploded near the marathon finish line on Boylston Street on April 15. The suspects believed to be behind the attacks, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, also allegedly killed an MIT police officer several nights later.

So far, the One Fund Boston has collected more than $29 million in cash and pledges. Feinberg, a Brockton native, now faces what he said were “choices that come, I think, right out of the Bible in determining who gets what.”

Drawing on his experience overseeing funds that compensated victims after events such as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the theater shooting in Aurora, Col., Feinberg ran public meetings this week that were part therapy session and part wealth-management seminar.

His main goal was getting input on how he should resolve difficult questions such as whether One Fund will pay benefits to victims who require mental healthcare — as the Aurora fund did not — or whether to give rich and poor victims the same benefits. Means-testing could provide more fairness, but could also take more time, Feinberg said.

Standing outside the Boston Public Library afterward, just steps from where the explosions took place, Feinberg said running the other funds taught him to focus on outcomes.

“You have to hold these town hall meetings, you have to tell people what you can do and what you can’t do,” he said. “People want certainty.”

Feinberg has already proposed that payments be prioritized for the families of the dead and the most seriously injured. He plans to distribute all the money in the fund by June 30, a goal set when he was asked by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to take the job.

A fund organizer, Karen Kaplan, president of the Hill Holliday advertising firm, said One Fund was set up in part to avoid the compensation confusion that sprang up after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., in December that left 20 students and six teachers dead.

Newtown officials identified more than 60 funds raising money on behalf of victims or projects after the tragedy. Families of some mass-shooting victims worried some funds were holding on to money unnecessarily and suggested creating a national fund for future incidents.

Some of those proponents praised Feinberg’s Boston efforts.

“It’s exactly what should happen,” said Scott Larimer, whose son John died in Aurora. “You’re going to use Ken Feinberg’s formula for distribution. It’s the money donated by the American public for sympathy and compassion, and here’s your money.”

Tuesday’s meeting drew a number of bombing victims, who thanked Feinberg for his work.

One was Wayne Gilchist of Cambridge, who showed his two heavily bandaged wrists and hands at the meeting. One was injured during the bombing and the second in a seizure he said was brought on by psychological distress after the attack.

“It’s putting so much stress on me,” he said. One hand was broken “because of what I saw right outside this door.”

Later he repeated one of Feinberg’s points, that funds should be distributed quickly.

“It’s got to be in a fast manner,” he said. “The families are suffering. I’m suffering.”

Also at the meeting was Bentley Mattier, who said he flew back to Boston from Atlanta to help his family after an aunt lost her leg in the attack. Like Gilchrist, he said sooner is better.

“I’d like for my aunt to be compensated immediately. Those hospital bills are coming in immediately,” he added.

Follow Metro Boston on Twitter: @MetroBos



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