Expediting the distribution of financial assistance to families who lost loved ones and to those seriously injured in the Boston Marathon bombings is key to plans for the One Fund Boston, an official said at a town hall meeting Monday night.
“If the governor and the mayor have made one thing clear to me, it’s get the money out the door,” said Kenneth R. Feinberg, the fund’s administrator, at the gathering at the Boston Public Library.
Feinberg said the fund contains about $28 million, from more than 50,000 donors, with about $11 million on hand and the rest pledged.
But he warned, “If you had a billion dollars, you could not have enough money to deal with all of the problems that ought to be addressed.”
More than 100 people gathered in a lecture hall to learn more about plans for the fund, including a number of parents of injured victims.
Boston Public Health Commissioner Barbara Ferrer attended, and more than a dozen mental health volunteers and case workers from the Red Cross were on hand to assist anyone overcome with emotion. Most of those in attendance, however, remained calm throughout the nearly two-hour forum, even as they raised painful questions.
A woman with weary eyes asked about her daughter, who she said lost one leg in the April 15 bombings and may lose the other.
“Do I understand correctly that if she still has her other leg by [the deadline for claims], she’ll be considered a single amputee?” she asked.
In the draft presented Monday, those who suffered double amputations would receive greater sums than those who lost one limb.
Feinberg told the mother that if her daughter’s claim includes a doctor’s letter saying she is likely to lose the other leg, that would probably be taken into consideration.
Under the protocol for the funds, the greatest compensation would go to those who lost family members or who suffered double amputations or permanent brain damage.
The next highest amounts would go to those who suffered a single amputation, followed by those hospitalized overnight, whose compensation would depend on the length of their hospital stays.
Presenting another dilemma, one man said he had a loved one whose leg was immobile as a result of his injuries.
“It’s not amputated, but he has no use of it,” he said. “Is that another doctor’s note put into our . . . application?”
“Yes,” Feinberg said. “If you’ve got . . . a claimant that was hospitalized that has permanent paralysis, that is a life-altering injury.”
Feinberg said it was too early to assign dollar amounts to injuries because donations are still coming in, there is not yet a comprehensive list of the injured, and eligibility requirements are still being determined.
Estimates of the injured range as high as 264, according to the Boston Public Health Commission.
Those who went to hospitals but did not stay overnight could be considered eligible, Feinberg said, as could those who suffered mental trauma, lost income, or other damages.
Feinberg cautioned, though, that given the limited funds, the priority would be to compensate those who suffered the greatest losses.
He said the fund would probably not consider the financial situations of the injured.
“No, we can’t get into that,” he said. “It will slow things down, make it too subjective.”
If family members place competing claims for a lost loved one, Feinberg said, those claims may have to be resolved in probate court.
“I’m not a family referee,” he said. “We’re not going to resolve those disputes. They happen all the time, and they slow down the process.”
Feinberg said he plans to have the claim form finalized by May 15 and then to accept claims for one month.
He said paperwork will be kept to a minimum, but to prevent fraud, claimants must prove the extent and cause of injuries and the length of hospital stays.
The absolute deadline for submitting claim forms is June 15, he said. After that, his staff at the fund would review claims and then issue checks on June 30.
Liz Norden, a mother of five whose two oldest sons were both badly injured in the blasts, said after the meeting that she was satisfied the process would be fair, but she still is trying to understand how it will work.
“I’m still learning,” Norden said, adding that one son is still in the hospital and the other is in a rehabilitation facility. “I really am just focused on care of my sons. . . .