One Fund Distributions Will Be Allocated Quickly

In charge of the fund is Kenneth Feinberg, who ran the distribution of federal funds after 9/11.

Boston is starting to heal. The city shared a moment of silence on Monday and is making steps to reopen Boylston Street and Copley Square. At coffee shops and playgrounds, we’re talking with our neighbors as we process the aftermath, parsing through the documents released by authorities in an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. We are raising money for victims (and boats) at a clip that, frankly, surprises no one that knows this town. In a testament to the incredible work done by the city’s medical professionals, only two victims remain in critical condition of the 48 still hospitalized. But it goes without saying that for those victims, the healing process has only just begun.

For one thing, the original number of those injured, which hovered at 170 since the middle of last week, has risen. The Globe reports that other victims, many of whom experienced hearing loss or smaller shrapnel wounds, have received treatment in the past few days, and the most recent tally by the Boston Public Health Commission now hovers at 282 victims. The latest data, as of Saturday, found that they were being treated at 27 area hospitals. In all, the cost of caring for the bombing victims will be enormous. Going far beyond the basic hospitalization fees, health care experts note that the costs for psychological counseling, physical therapy, and prosthetic limbs, plus the renovation of homes to better accommodate their injuries, all need to be accounted for as well.

So far, the One Fund has raised more than $20 million dollars, so it’s heartening to hear that Kenneth R. Feinberg, who has been tasked with overseeing the fund, has plans to quickly get the money into the hands of those who need it. Feinburg has become the de facto arbiter of tragedy in this country in the past decade, having overseen the distribution of compensation funds to victims of the 9/11 attacks and other tragedies such as the shootings at Virginia Tech and in Aurora, Colo. But he’s also a native: he grew up in Brockton, attended UMass-Amherst, and sits on the board of the JFK Library.

Feinberg is tasked with coming up with a formula for the fund, determining how much to dole out to victims and their families based on their needs. To say that it’s stressful is a huge understatement, and Feinberg has spoken about the struggles he’s faced in the past when dealing with the distribution of federal funds after 9/11. In 2008, he was asked, in a fascinating Q&A with the Washingtonianwhether he thought federal funds should be allocated in the event of another terrorist attack. He responded:

If Congress had asked me, “Well, what do you think of this program?” I would say don’t do it again. Here in Washington, if a car bomb goes off, do not set up a victim-compensation program. Or if you’re going to do it again, next time make it much simpler. Have a person with the authority simply dole out the same amount to families of all of the dead. Don’t ask one person to act like Solomon and try to calculate the value of lives. To be judge, jury, accountant, lawyer, rabbi, et cetera is very, very difficult.

As of right now, there hasn’t been much talk of using federal dollars to compensate victims of the Boston bombings, which would keep with Feinberg’s recommendations. The New York Times has the latest details on his plans to distribute the One Fund donations, which have been gathered so far from the public. In short, he’s going to move quickly:

For Mr. Feinberg, whom city and state officials asked to administer the One Fund Boston, the first task is to determine how much money is going to be available through it. Most donations typically arrive in the first month after a disaster, he said, adding that the fund-raising window should ideally be brief. “I’m a big believer, in most of these programs, that the fund should be a very small duration,” Mr. Feinberg said in a phone interview. “Because you’ve got to begin to get the money out the door to the people who really need it, and you’ve got to know how much you’re going to distribute.”

It’s comforting to know that the One Fund is in such competent hands.


Update, April 23, 2013, 5:10 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated the One Fund’s total at $10 million. The mayor’s office just announced that the figure raised is now $20 million. This story has been revised to reflect that update.