The disbursement of a fund for people affected by the events surrounding the Unite the Right rally has been delayed as officials await confirmation from medical and mental health providers on some of the applicants.
The National Compassion Fund: Charlottesville, overseen by the National Center for Victims of Crime, began accepting applications in February. The fund contains about $205,000 primarily raised through a GoFundMe campaign the Democratic Socialists of America set up. According to a statement on the DSA’s website, the organization’s steering committee voted in October to transfer the money to the fund, and the transfer occurred in November.
Distribution originally was scheduled to begin in April.
John Kluge, one of the co-chairs of the fund’s steering committee, said it has been a frustrating process overall for many involved.
“The difficulties have been in the verification process,” Kluge said.
Jeff Dion, deputy executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, said he thinks the delay partially is coming from medical and mental health providers not being familiar with this type of request.
“We don’t want any of their documents or records, we’re asking them just to validate — ‘Can you tell us yes that this person saw you related to this?’ — and it’s a little different from the usual type of records request,” Dion said.
As of Friday afternoon, about 13 applications still were pending validation.
Fund officials are sending applicants emails to let them know whether they have been approved fully or still are awaiting validation. The distribution plan for the funds cannot be finalized until all applications are processed, officials said.
“Even a small change in the number of approved applicants can significantly impact the final distribution plan,” Kluge said.
To have been eligible to apply, a claimant had to have been the estate holder of Heather Heyer, who was slain in the aftermath of the Aug. 12 rally; physically injured in the Aug. 11 or 12 events and hospitalized for one or more nights between Aug. 11 and March 1; physically injured as a result of events and was treated on an outpatient basis between Aug. 11 and Aug. 18; or physically present within the geographic area of the events when they occurred and experienced emotional trauma because of it.
Using paper applications attributed to the slow start of the process, Dion said.
“People though an electronic process would be [disrupted] by the far right and people would jam us up with hundreds of false or fraudulent applications, and I don’t know if that would have happened,” he said.
Once the application period closed, Dion said about a week passed before they had a good sense of how many applications were postmarked by the deadline.
The steering committee for the fund also created an alternative system of social validation with more than 20 groups to verify that people were in Charlottesville on Aug. 11 and 12, for people who are reluctant to talk with law enforcement or distrustful of the government or systems in general.
“Normally, we would work with law enforcement or victim witness and/or in the case of Parkland, the school system, and they could tell us who was there,” Dion said.
He said the amount of money raised is a function of timing. The Charlottesville fund didn’t start collecting money until late August, after other places to donate already had been established, and it didn’t have a committee chair until September.
“It’s about acting quickly while things are still very active in the news cycle and if you delay in starting that process to collect donations for folks, it becomes much more difficult to collect funds when you’re not at the top of the news,” Dion said.
“What I always say is the success of a fund should not be measured in the amount of money that’s collected or how much each individual victim gets, but rather was the process transparent, fair and victim centered,” Dion said.
Kluge said there are a number of ongoing efforts to bring in additional resources to the community.
“I think that there is a hope that resources will continue to be made available for people who need direct support for expenses for care or treatment,” he said. “No amount of money, though, is ever going to address the pain that someone feels because of what happened, not at a personal level, I don’t think.”