The problem inherent with large organizational fundraising like that managed by Equality Florida or OneOrlando is that getting the money to the people is complicated. There has to be a lot of accountability, there have to be processes and legal documents in place, there has to be documentation of every cent and every bill negotiation. And then there has to be a difficult discussion about weighted distribution: who deserves how much money, and for how long, and for what reasons? Does having a dead family member entitle a family to more or less money than a live, but disabled family member? Are some disabilities or medical needs quantified as greater than others? What if your “only” damage is psychological, and therefore harder to diagnose or quantify? What if you are impacted severely economically by the event, but not so much so medically or psychologically… are you disallowed access to fund monies to support yourself and your family in spite of losing your livelihood? Is access to actual money first come, first serve or will monies be held in reserve and benefits capped? What happens to capped benefits that are not claimed? Are benefits for documented medical bills only, regardless of whether a person may need to prioritize paying rent to avoid eviction or buying groceries to feed their children , or can money be used for living expenses?
The transparency statement from Equality Florida makes an attempt to address some of these concerns but given the enormity of the task facing them it is no surprise that their transparency statement leaves many questions unanswered. It is available for review here. At the time of this writing it is unclear how much money Equality Florida is managing for the survivor network (this article from 4 days ago states a total of $17mil, but there is no source cited for this number and other recent sources suggest a total closer to $12m). I don’t mean to suggest that Equality Florida is deliberately obfuscating their fund management, just that given the enormity of the task transparency is not a priority.
Donors have a right to know how and where their money will go once it is given. With direct donation, you know your money is going directly to someone in need for them to use however they most need it. You also know that the funds are getting to that needy person as soon as possible via a method that person can access easily.
This essentially abhorrent article, which concludes with a statement by who-cares-what-you-have-to-say-you-don’t-speak-for-our-community Governor Rick Scott, quotes the National Center for Victims of Crime’s executive director Mai Fernandez:
“[Victims] will be placed into categories — those who died, those who had major injuries and those who had lesser injuries — and a decision will be made on what percentage of the donations each category should get…everyone who died is going to get the same amount. It’s not an actuarial thing. It’s not like one is a plumber and one is a lawyer and one should get more…we’re making the determination by injury or death.”
The statement above may SEEM like a promise of equivalency, but it is not. That is not the fault of the agency or Mia Fernandez–hey are doing the best they can to be fair in an unfair situation. However, judging the equivalency of injury is not actually something that is really practical when addressing individual need: what survivors actually need addressed is benefits to accommodate the equivalency of their new disabilities, but that is a fraught subject for another post entirely. Nor does addressing need simply based on death address individual familial circumstances… forget equivocating in terms of employment, let’s do so instead in terms of support obligations. Did one victim financially support children or an infirm family member while another was single? The simple fact is that large funds are not equipped to address individual need on the level that individuals deserve to have their needs addressed. That’s why we have communities. That’s why individuals ask their communities directly for help… because they need it.
What’s more, at this point, the large funds are working very hard to address the long term and crisis needs of victim families and survivors and as a member of the Orlando community I couldn’t be more thankful to the hardworking people involved in their efforts. However, it’s important to recognize the inherent limitations they are faced with: at this time, weeks after the tragedy, the large funds are still primarily negotiating bills and distributing gift cards instead of distributing actual dollars. OneOrlando only JUST reorganized and committed to shuttling its funds to Equality Florida for direct distribution to the survivor network. Thankfully there is PulseofOrlando to help fill in, but ultimately it is up to us, the members of the larger world community, to listen to our neighbors when they ask for help and determine if we are willing and able to give it directly.
This is why direct donation is so important RIGHT NOW: to pick up the slack during this gap period while our larger, long term funds organize and prepare their long-term distribution strategies. Visit the #AdoptOrlando Mission Page to get inspired on how you can promote direct donation or find an Orlando community member in need of your generosity today!