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Millions Donated To Victims -- Who Decides Where It Goes?

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Crosses have been placed in front of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign in memory of the 58 people killed Sunday night.

A GoFundMe page set up by Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak in the aftermath of Sunday's shootings has raised millions of dollars for victims of the Route 91 Harvest country music festival shootings.

But who decides where all of that money goes after it has been raised, and how much goes to each victim?

Where do priorities lie?

Kenneth Feinberg has some answers.

A lawyer who has administered victims' funds after tragedies like 9/11 and the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Feinberg was mentioned by Sisolak in a Thursday press conference as someone advising efforts in Las Vegas.

Feinberg told KNPR's State of Nevada that the first step to distributing help is deciding how much money is available.

For example, the 9/11 victim's fund distributed $7 billion of taxpayer money over 33 months. Following the Boston Marathon bombing, $61 million of private donations were distributed over 90 days.

The second step is to decide who is eligible and what methodology should be used for distributing money to victims' families and survivors.

He said depending on the amount of money, the funds should first go to the families of those who died, the second is people who have survived but had to be hospitalized and finally, the money should go to people who were hurt but didn't need to be hospitalized. 

However, Feinberg said it is unwise to use the victim's original salary or career choice to determine funding.

"The minute you start looking at considerations like financial wherewithal, financial security. One victim was a banker the other was a busboy. One was stock broker the other was a student. You start getting into those considerations. A) it results in a tremendous amount of anger and disagreement among eligible vicitms. B) it takes so long to gather that information together that program becomes very inefficient and costly," he said.

Another consideration is the format that is currently being used to raise money, gofundme pages are not free. A percentage is funneled to the website.

Feinberg said it needs to be "100 percent pro-bono." From the legal aid needed to distribute funds to any photocopying that is needed, it all needs to be "non-reimbursable."

He also believes it is important to have one fund that people can donate to and one fund where survivors and victims' families can come for help without that, “the centralized effectiveness of getting funds out to eligible claimants becomes diffused.”

He also advised that money gets distributed quickly.

“You want to try to get these programs up and running with compensation dispensed, distributed within 90 days,” he said.


Kenneth Feinberg, lawyer

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)